May 17, 2015


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Lot 47: Tony Duquette

Lot 47: Tony Duquette

Six panel screen

Designed c. 1994
Panels each: 95.5" x 25" x 1.5"; Overall: 95.5" x 150" x 1.5"
Provenance: Private Collection, Los Angeles, California;
Private Collection, Los Angeles, California (acquired directly from the above through Christie's, Los Angeles, "Innovators of Twentieth Century Style Including Property sold to benefit the Elsie de Wolfe Foundation," September 18, 1999, lot 223)
Estimate: $12,000 - $15,000
Price Realized: $37,500
Inventory Id: 19047

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This screen is a prototype of a model designed by Tony Duquette for the first Paris residence of Mr. and Mrs. John N. Rosekrans.

One of the great style icons of the 20th century, Tony Duquette (1914–1999) created designs of timeless flair and magnetism. “Beauty, not luxury, is what I value” was his oft-repeated motto. Hutton Wilkinson, his longtime design partner, referred to his skill in conjuring finery when he claimed that Duquette “was a do-it-yourself de Medici.”

Born in Los Angeles and educated at the Chouinard Art Institute in the 1940s, Duquette received peerless instruction as the protégé of Elsie De Wolfe—the eminent tastemaker often credited with originating the business of interior decoration, and a colleague of the great William “Billy” Haines. His own clients included both Hollywood royalty, such as actress Mary Pickford, and a platinum-clad roster of the wealthy and powerful, among them J. Paul Getty, Doris Duke, Norton Simon, and the Duchess of Windsor.

Duquette’s style was broad and democratic. “I will use anything to help me capture the quality I am seeking; what I find in the street, in the attic, on the desert, in the sea, the gnarled tree root, the snail’s own shell.” The present lot is a classic example of this artfulness. Fashioned out of framed plastic and mesh, this screen, or room-divider, was a prototype for the Paris apartment of American tycoon John Rosekrans and his wife Dodie, a patron of fine arts. 18th-century Chinese carved screens served as inspiration here. (Duquette also designed a snowflake pattern based on the Chinese décor, used in fabrics and wall-coverings.) His own Beverly Hills estate, Dawnridge, benefitted from this design, as Duquette made a similar piece for his home.

With a love for theater (and theatricality), Duquette also fashioned costumes and set designs for films, including “Kismet” (1955) and “Can-Can” (1960). In 1961 he won a Tony award as costume designer for the original Broadway production of “Camelot.” By way of his baroque interiors for private homes and hotels, lavish costumes, and original set designs, the name Tony Duquette remains to be synonymous with glamour, fantasy, and excess.

Iovine, Julie V. “Tony Duquette, a Decorator of Fantasy, Is Dead at 85.” The New York Times 14 Sept. 1999. Web. Mistry, Meenal. “Perfect Pair. ” Harper’s Bazaar 23 Jan. 2012. Web. Wilkinson, Hutton. More Is More: Tony Duquette. New York: Abrams, 2009. Print.