The $1 million mural rescued from the 'world's most beautiful ship'



2017-05-16 09:24:59

A mural rescued from the famous ocean liner the SS Normandie could $1 million at Sotheby's next month.

Consisting of eight elaborate glass panels, the Art Deco mural will hit the auction block in New York on June 6, having been consigned from the collection of the late billionare Malcolm Forbes.

Built in France and launched in 1932, the SS Normandie was one of the largest and most luxurious ocean liners ever conceived. 

It was designed to be the world's most beautiful ship, and featured spectacular Art Deco interiors and artworks by renowned artists of the era.

The ship's huge Grand Salon featured a monumental mural designed by Jean Dupas, etched on glass panels using delicate paint techniques and metallic leaf.

These panels depicted four mythological stories: The Chariot of Poseidon, Rape of Europa, The Chariot of Thetis, and The Birth of Aphrodite, which greeted First Class passengers during the maiden voyage to America in May 1935.

The ship made its final voyage across the Atlantic in 1939 just as war broke out across Europe, and it remained docked in New York harbour as France fell to the Nazis, unable to travel home safely.

In May 1941, five days after the attack on Pearl harbour, the US Government repurposed the SS Normandie to be used as an American troopship, and renamed it the USS Lafayette.

The luxurious interiors, including the glass mural panels, were all stripped out and work began to refit the ship for battle. But during this process the Normandie accidentally caught fire and capsized in the harbour.

Although it was righted during a salvage operation in 1943, the cost of restoration was deemed to high – and the wreck of the once-iconic vessel was eventually sold for scrap in 1946.

In 1981 the mural, which depicts part of the story of The Birth of Aphrodite, was acquired at auction by the entrepreneur and publisher Malcolm S. Forbes, as a wedding gift to his son Robert.

The panels were later installed in the entrance to the Forbes Galleries in Manhattan, and remained there until its closing in 2014.

Today artefacts from the once-iconic vessel are highly sought after by collectors and institutions alike.

One of the four corner murals is preserved in its entirety in New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art, and in 2009 a further suite of ten panels from The Birth of Aphrodite sold at Sotheby's for $512,500.

"Dupas's spectacular panels from the Normandie are one of the most storied icons from the Art Deco era, and it is unprecedented for the market to see a series of eight panels that form such a strong, dynamic pictorial scene," said  Jodi Pollack, Sotheby’s Co-Worldwide Head of 20th Century Design.

"Collectors have always been fascinated with the Normandie, perhaps because of the miraculous events that led to the survival of its extraordinary art and furnishings. There is a growing appreciation for 20th century design that exhibits superlative quality, rarity and pedigree, and these panels are best in class."

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