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Rare Ruhlmann Piano up for auction at Sotheby’s

By Adrian Prisca


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The highlight of Sotheby’s 20th Century Design auction, due to happen on the 6th of March, in New York, will reportedly be this extremely rare, long-lost piano manufactured by Emile-Jacques Ruhlmann. The French interiors and furnishing designer used to be known as “Art Deco’s greatest artist”. The elegant piano is in fact one of the six exceedingly rare Ruhlmann pianos in the world and one of the three similarly styled pieces as well. It is expected to fetch somewhere between $400,000 and $600,000.

The contraption was manufactured from macassar ebony and American walnut, alongside ivory accents and gilt bronze touches. It was first displayed at the famous 1925 Paris art deco exposition, the significant and defining moment of French art deco. James Zemaitis, the senior vice president of the auction house’s 20th century design, describes: “In a sense it’s the opposite of what a classic, say Steinway, shape would be. It was Ruhlmann’s great modernist style and innovation in the 1920s that would come up with something like that. Where the piano should go in it goes out on the side. Convex versus concave.”

Also part of its interesting history is that during the 1930s it used to be kept in the ladies’ drawing room of French ocean liner SS Normandie, the Queen of the Seas to some, an extremely fabled vessel for its ultimately luxurious interiors and elegant French art deco arrangements and designs, somewhat comparable to the rooms inside the Palace of Versailles. Zemaitis further states: “In the main room, Ruhlmann exhibited another example of this piano. That piano immediately became iconic because of its presence in the central room.”

Worth mentioning is the fact that the piano was purchased during the early 1940s by the Butler family, the former owners and founders of The Buffalo Evening News. The instrument was installed at the extravagant Butler Mansion, which was reportedly designed by the acclaimed architect Stanford White in Buffalo, until the residence was recently sold to a university. We’re pretty anxious about the outcome of the auction!


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About Adrian Prisca

Founder of Luxatic and countless other projects, Adrian has shaped this website into a go-to source for discerning readers looking for the latest in luxury products and experiences. He has over 15 years of experience in creating, managing and publishing lifestyle content across numerous platforms and he’s considered a leading voice in the luxury industry. Learn more about Luxatic's Editorial Process.

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