Designed to present the pinnacle of French artistry and celebrate national pride, the S.S. Normandie was built at the French port of Saint-Nazaire for the Compagnie Générale Transatlantique and entered service in 1935. Over 1,000 feet in length and outfitted with four turbo-electric motors, the Normandie was the largest and fastest ship of its time. It remains the most powerful steam and turbo-electric propelled passenger ship ever built. The Normandie was likewise exceptional for its luxuriously appointed interiors, decorated by some of the finest French architects and designers of the age, including Roger-Henri Expert, Jean de Brunhoff, Jean Dupas, and Jean-Maurice Rothschild. Painter, designer, and sculptor Jean Dunand was commissioned to decorate the ship's first-class smoking room and part of the first-class salon. The present lot is a small-scale variation of the final design seen in the period photograph above.
Musical Ear, Artistic Eye
Works from the Collection of Seymour Stein
Seymour Stein is co-founder and Chairman of Sire Records, one of the world’s most influential record labels and home to some of the most iconic artists in modern music. He has been Sire’s driving visionary and creative force since its origins in the 1960s as an independent label and its four-decade tenure as part of Warner Music Group. His unique ability to anticipate musical trends, and to discover and sign the greatest artists within those movements, has left an indelible mark on contemporary culture.
It was in 1955, when he was just 13 years old, that Stein was granted access to the Billboard archives, where he painstakingly transcribed two decades of charts, developing his encyclopedic memory of songs. After high school, he joined the Billboard staff, then worked for King Records and Red Bird Records. He and producer Richard Gottehrer launched Sire Records in 1967.
Stein first saw the Ramones in 1975 and, as he said, “It was like sticking my hand in a live electric light socket.” The band’s first album was released by Sire in 1976. It remains one of the seminal recordings in rock and roll history. Stein put New Wave music – a term he coined – on the mainstream map with the likes of Talking Heads and the Pretenders. And in a moment that has become a permanent part of music industry lore, Stein signed a young artist named Madonna while he was in the hospital recuperating from a heart infection. Over the years, Sire’s roster has included other cutting-edge artists such as Tom Tom Club, Depeche Mode, The Smiths, The Cure, Ice-T, k.d. lang, Seal, Everything But The Girl, Aztec Camera, Dinosaur Jr., Wilco, My Bloody Valentine, Primal Scream, Aphex Twin, Spacehog, Regina Spektor, Tegan & Sara, and many more. Stein was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2005.
In addition to his myriad musical pursuits, Stein developed an impeccable eye for fine and decorative art. His particular love for Art Deco and Art Nouveau design began during his many trips to London and Paris while on the hunt for new bands to sign. With the guidance of his long-time curator and adviser Rodney Richardson, Stein procured only the best examples of ceramics, paintings, drawings, and furniture he could find. We are thrilled to present works from his extraordinary collection and are grateful to him and Rodney for their help, warmth, and good humor.
Jean Dunand was born in Lancy, Switzerland, in 1877. Beginning his formal training at the School of Industrial Arts in Geneva, Dunand excelled at creating decorative arts. Apprenticing at the workshop of noted sculptor Jean Damp in Paris, Dunand became accomplished in the arts of sculpture and carving. Inspired by Japanese art, Dunand developed his skills in repoussé metalworking, creating elegant bowls and vases of copper. To learn the Japanese art of lacquer, Dunand made a deal with Seizo Sugawara trading his skills in bronze for lessons in lacquer work skills. Following the First World War, Dunand created his own studio exclusively for making lacquered Art Deco furniture and interiors. Trying his hand at a new craft, Dunand extended his metalworking skills to jewelry, fashioning pieces deeply reminiscent of Cubist sculpture and African tribal art, and he exhibited his jewelry in a show alongside pieces by Elsa Schiaparelli and Jeanne Lanvin in 1924. Elected vice president of the metal display by his peers for the International Exhibit of Modern and Industrial and Decorative Art, Dunand was additionally asked to create a room representing the theme of “A French Embassy Abroad.” The elegant, black and red lacquered smoking room was a crowd favorite. An innovative craftsman in every sense of the word, Dunand combined the complex art of lacquer with the geometric and precise forms of Art Deco, creating an entirely new and groundbreaking style. Jean Dunand is recognized as one of the key figures in French design of the 20th century, the greatest lacquer artist of the Art Deco period and his work is held in the permanent collections of major museums around the world.