The eye of the collector by Jean-luc Ferrand


Friday 18 December 2015, by Barbara Cogollos

All the versions of this article: [English] [français]

Bronze clock with golden patina, in the style of Japan, presented a phoenix holding in its beak a branch of cherry blossoms and landed on his back. The decor bird shaped supports a circular dial with black enamel and gold. carved rectangular base encasing marble-onyx terrace and underframe corner in bamboo pattern.

The pendulum phoenix borrows Japanese culture, interest in the flora and fauna in a refined and poetic treatment. The cherry branch, "sakura" in Japanese, is a symbol of ephemeral beauty. It is appreciated for its ornamental qualities. The phoenix, symbol of resurrection, is a clever adaptation of the legendary bird, able to reborn after consumed with its own heat.

This clock is appreciated for its refinement, exceptional quality that clearly marks its belonging to the production of one of the largest luxury house in the nineteenth century.

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The context

The nineteenth century was a turbulent period for France, its political and social upheaval modify its artistic aspect and innovative currents that characterize it. This century has the Bourbon Restoration, the July Monarchy, the Second Republic and the first forty-four years of the Third Republic.

La France is modernizing both through its science than by developments in its manners. She finally emerged as a stable power that assumes its choice both political and cultural, country of innovation and creation, social setbacks do not slow its artistic development.


This house was created in 1802 by the widow Desarnaud born Rosalie Charpentier. She was the first dealer of her time to offer clocks, candelabras and ornamental vases combining cut crystal and gilt bronze. It specializes in the manufacture of small decorative objects and puts a point of honor to the quality of its executions. The factory was sold in 1847 to Pierre Isidore Lahoche & Boin who abandons the name of ESCALIER DE CRYSTAL, then Lahoche only in 1852.

This latter joined his son by alliance Emilie Pannier and becomes Lahoche & Pannier in 1857. Their production is considered "a luxury and a quality rarely equaled." They specialize in creating objects to the Japanese style and show the name of ESCALIER DE CRYSTAL, synonymous with refinement and quality.

Finally, the Pannier brothers, George (1844-1944) and Henry (? -1935) took over the business in 1890 until 1923. Through its many changes of ownership, we can say that the paternity of the brand is complex.

Its production

The house ESCALIER DE CRYSTAL will create a reputation of innovation proposed by the Desarmaud widow: the combination of crystal and bronze in the same object. She won for this innovation the gold medal at the Exhibition of the Industry of French products in 1819, and then she sinks slowly into oblivion after the death of her founder. We must wait 1844 and the departure of Boin to the house for the house found the splendor of its beginnings: Lahoche did appear the first official publication of her works.

The brand was relocated in 1840 to 162-164 Valois galleries. Henceforth there will be a single exposure whose house come out without a medal. The house attracts critical acclaim that fall within its luxury and Parisian elegance. Artists like Emile Gallé grants to the ESCALIER DE CRISTAL their exclusivity (his herbarium pattern) because he considers the shop as "a permanent art exhibition"

You should know that before its takeover by Lahoche Pannier the house "Escalier de Cristal" specializes in tableware, decorative objects made of porcelain and bronze. It manufactures some furniture to demonstrate its first specialty: alloy crystal and bronze. It was at the initiative of Pannier brothers that it owes its success in furniture. Their father had moved the shop in 1872 near the opera, a transfer following the general movement of large traders who leave the Royal Palace for younger neighborhoods richer. It is at this moment that we see appearing at the ESCALIER DE CRYSTAL the first furniture, which are reproductions of old,imitations freely interpreted his creations of the eighteenth century. But Pannier brothers feel the need to change and decide to diversify the production of home, it is necessary to forge links with new trades and to ensure perfect production. The house will not be present at the 1889 Universal Exposition as it refines its future creations. The first furniture exhibition where it will present is intimate: it takes place in December 1894 in the Galerie Georges Petit, composed of japanese creations that are shown to the public and show the new direction of the house. Riding the wave of Japanese art which French society adore, the Pannier brothers secure a reputation of innovative home and fashion. We hear that "models are always particularly well chosen, the distinguished taste and perfect execution."

For this new industry, ESCALIER DE CRYSTAL ensures the work of leading suppliers: Viardot (1830-1906) is one of the first to adapt the Asian style with European taste. Instead of reproducing the traditional Japanese furniture imitations, he takes existing designs of the house and "japonize it". He added on furniture lacquered panels coming from far east and the Mother of pearl of Tonkin.

The Pannier brothers also join with Nancy Majorelle house whose founder was patented in 1878 the decoration of lacquer furniture with ceramic inlays.

A same model goes through different professions, all run by popular artisans of the time. The presence of all these stakeholders is useful for dating pieces since they correspond to periods of collaborations. We note the participation of Kroeller, Fetu, Lievaux, Thomassins, Shaal ...

Japanism very fashionable in Paris, the ESCALIER DE CRYSTAL offers for experienced collectors, quality objects, desired models that are innovative by mixing that they offer: from the East in the Western furniture. There are no Asian imitation, the house creates "deliberately imaginary East but according to Western models" it acquires an eclecticism that knows how to choose and transpose with great freedom. ESCALIER DE CRYSTAL has no concern of representing the Japanese nature but of making simply a beautiful object. Borrowings from an exotic civilization have only decorative and scenic value.

The ESCALIER DE CRISTAL also contributes greatly to spreading the taste for the Far East to Europe and is present in numerous exhibitions, including at the Universal Exhibition in 1851 in London at Crystal Palace. In 1853, the ESCALIER DE CRYSTAL receives a silver medal for exhibitions in New York and Paris and it was in 1900, during the Universal Exhibition in Paris that this house receives a gold medal.


It is important to talk about notebooks from the house. They are now a representative heritage of French cabinetmaking. At a time when companies record all their documents in computers, it is interesting to see how the Pannier brothers identified any of their creations and sales in these small notebooks. Today they are a precious asset that allow dating and knowledge of stakeholders to the entire production of the house.

Each sale was recorded, there is a small sketch for each piece of furniture, a brief description including the name of its creator, the performers, the nature of materials, customers and the sales price.

For example, for the sale of a piece of furniture in 1894 we can read in a book, "cabinet with panels painted in oil, part gilt bronze, very dark rosewood, oxidized brass made by Kroeller Cabinetmaking, Pestat for bronze, according to a Hare drawing was published in 6 copies. Purchased by Wladimir Russia pays 6,500 gold francs for the exemplary illustrated F.Clairin "This model is now on display at the Hermitage Museum in Lenningrad.


ESCALIER DE CRYSTAL rigorously stamps its models and date it, which facilitates the search for the person who executes. But often the furniture is stamped discreetly, in this, we often believed in originals of Louis XVI to the disassembly revealing the dating of the book.

Stamping is changed every social change of the house. And the late works are marked "Pannier Brothers and Co." but we find before "Pannier-Lahoche & co" or simply "ESCALIER DE CRYSTAL."


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