Antiques Blog

An Extraordinary Encounter in France

Hello from France!

Just this past week, Larry and I had the great pleasure of meeting a very important lady in the world of early 20th Century furniture designers.

This extraordinary lady’s name is ‘Francoise Siriex’. Mdm. Siriex was the director of the ‘Maison Leleu’ from 1950 until it’s close in 1973.

What was Maison Leleu? It was the atelier of reknowned modernist designer ‘Jules Leleu’ (1883 – 1961).

In case you’ve never heard of Jules Leleu let me fill you in. He was one of the greatest art deco and modernist furniture designers of all time whose beautiful furniture commands several thousands of dollars to this day.

A very close Parisian friend of ours knew how much we loved Leleu and just happened to mention in fact she knew the former directrice. Brigitte, our friend, kindly telephoned Mdm. Siriex and asked if we could meet her. Much to our delight Mdm Siriex agreed.

Larry Adams and Mdm. Siriex at the exhibit of modernist designers at the Espace Landowski

Larry Adams and Mdm. Siriex at the exhibit of modernist designers at the Espace Landowski just outside of Paris.

It was a rainy blustery afternoon that day, in fact, I thought I might spare the lady our meeting by organizing a more ‘weather friendly’ day. When I telephoned her she remarked that a little rain was not a problem and she’d meet us at our arranged time and place.

Madame Siriex well into her later years, met us at the Espace Landowski, a gallery in Boulogne Billancourt and proceeded to tour us around the exhibit that featured Leleu’s work and other super star designers of the time.

We were later invited back to her apartment and chatted with this dynamic woman for over three hours about her past and her work at the Maison Leleu. We learned this incredible lady had recently published a book on the Maison Leleu in 2008.

The House of Leleu by Francoise Siriex Book Cover

The House of Leleu by Francoise Siriex available on Amazon.com.

She spent years assembling this magnificent book, which is available through amazon.com for anyone who’s interested. Be aware however, this book will set you back over $300. If you saw the book you’d know why. It’s one of those fabulous over sized ‘coffee table’ books that’s large, impressive and beautifully put together with loads of information on this incredible designer. In fact, this dynamic lady still flies back and forth to New York doing book signings and guest appearances.

At one point during our visit I remarked if she had any of the original designs from the famed designer. The gracious Mdm Siriex brought out a file of hundreds of original designs that she’d kept for decades. As I carefully leafed through the amazing collection she asked me if I’d like one. Thrilled, of course I said yes. She remarked she couldn’t leave Larry out for fear of rivalry between us so a grateful Larry picked out a wonderful sketch done for a bathroom designed in 1930.

An original pen and ink sketch by Leleu C.1940

The original pen and ink sketch that I chose by Leleu C.1940.

Brief history of Jules Leleu

French superstar designer 'Jules Leleu' C.1940

French superstar designer ‘Jules Leleu’ C.1940.

Jules Leleu was born in Boulogne sur Mer (North of Paris near Calais ) in 1883. Raised in an artisitc family, the young Leleu studied applied arts and in 1918 went into furniture design. He moved to Paris in 1924 where he lived with another famous designer Jacques-Emile Ruhlmann.

The House of Leleu prospered and later became a family business. By the late 1930s, Leleu’s sons, André and Jean, and his daughter, Paule, were active partners. The famous atelier had an elite clientele including the Prince of Monaco, The Emperor of Japan, and President Eisenhower.

Commode by Jules Leleu C.1930

Commode by Jules Leleu C.1930

The furniture of Leleu is often compared to that of Jacques Ruhlmann. Each liked simplified shapes, the use of exotic woods, marquetry and inlay of ivory.

Leleu outlived Ruhlmann, and his style evolved. He grew adventurous, adopting new materials like artificial lacquer, fiberglass, plastic and aluminum and continued his prolific career designing.

Along with the interiors of industrialists’ houses, Leleu designed sleek salons for ocean liners like the Ile-de-France and the Normandie, corporate offices and interiors for public institutions (the League of Nations in Geneva), and the Elysee Palace in Paris.

SS Ile de France cost over $10,000,000 to build

SS Ile de France cost over $10,000,000 to build.

1st class suite in the SS Ile de France

1st class suite in the SS Ile de France.

Lean Horne and Rita Hayworth

Lean Horne and Rita Hayworth were among frequent voyagers on this luxurious liner.

The Main Foyer of the SS Ile de France

The Main Foyer

Leleu died in 1961, leaving a legacy of elegant, refined and often surprisingly original work, and his pieces are highly sought after today. His family and loyal staff (Mdm Siriex included) continued his work until 1973 when the Maison Leleu finally closed it’s doors.

Beautiful sideboard 'attributed' to Jules Leleu

This beautiful sideboard is only ‘attributed’ to Jules Leleu and sells for $28000.

The Antique Warehouse and ‘Leleu’

A curious remark was made during our visit with Mdm. Siriex. She stated that “Pas tous de Jules Leleu meubles a été signé” which in English means “not all of Leleu’s pieces were signed.” We’ve had signed ‘Leleu’ pieces sold through the store before, but we’re sure we’ve had some that were unsigned. In any event we’ll pay careful attention to the detail and craftsmanship that is unmistakable ‘Leleu’ in the future. Have a look at this French art deco cabinet that’s unsigned and currently in the store.

We have several ‘modernist’ pieces arriving to the store over the next several months. If you’re a lover of this style, please keep tabs on our ‘new container‘ announcements. ( One expected in about two weeks )
You can sign up for our newsletter and product updates if you’ve not already done so. We’ve not picked up any signed pieces of Leleu, but you never know… That’s what makes our business so exciting!

A bientot, from Paris France.

Cheers,
Mark

Comments

2 thoughts on “An Extraordinary Encounter in France

  1. I am in the marker for 2 sideboards and various other works by the likes of Jules Leleu, Ruhlmann ect

    • Hello,
      We have quite a wonderful sideboard by a famous French designer currently in the store now. It’s signed by the designer ‘Georges De Bardyere’ He’s a contemporary of Leleu, Ruhlmann etc. Just click here if you’re interested in having a look.

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