François-Xavier Lalanne and his wife, Claude, are widely known as one of the most prominent and beloved artistic duos of the 20th century. During their heyday, loyal clients included the likes of Valentino and Yves Saint Laurent. And today, their fantastical creations continue to appear in the homes of many notable collectors. They also fetch top dollar at auction, as this week’s sale of Francois Lalanne’s Grand Canard—for over $2.62 million at Gros & Delettrez in Paris—further proved.
The sale, titled “L’Universe des Arts Decoratifs,” included an array of Art Deco treasures and furnishings, such as an oak folding stool by Jean-Michel Frank and Chanaux & Cie, which sold for almost $72,000, and a bookcase with blocks by Charlotte Perriand, which went for $73,500. Nonetheless, François-Xavier Lalanne’s giant duck stood out, especially since it more than doubled its initial estimation of $1.1 million. The sculpture itself is almost five feet tall, and, more notably, stretches to almost seven feet in terms of its length.
The work is characteristic of Lalanne, whose animal sculptures are often subtly-imbued with both whimsy and functionality. Built for a client in 1971, the colossal bird appears decorative at first glance, but as its iron wings lift and head tilts forward, the innards reveal built-in clothing storage.
The canard is a rare piece, but one that evinces how Lalanne’s Surrealist-inspired, light-hearted sculptures continue to delight. “Marvelous!… I have no doubt that this bird will fly away to a wonderful collection,” decorative arts dealer Alexandre Biaggi commented to AD PRO upon seeing the sculpture before its sale, noting that its qualities are “combined as always in François-Xavier Lalanne’s work with humor, poetry, and true savoir faire.”