It is considered one of the most magical, poetic, and private interiors of the 20th century, yet, it consisted of just one bedroom, a bathroom, and a boudoir. It was created in the Liria Palace in Madrid for the 17th Duke of Alba, a Renaissance Man who served on such political appointments as Ambassador to Great Britain. He commissioned the legendary interiors for the apartment of his new wife, the stylish Duchess of Alba on the occasion of their marriage in 1920.
This interior was done by French decorator and furniture designer Armand Albert Rateau. Aside from the magnificent scheme and memorable, iconic furniture, these interiors act as a testament to a love story that lasted only 14 years, the love story of a powerful couple who became known for entertaining international high society with lavish balls. It ended when the Duchess died of tuberculosis at the age of 34.
The match between Rateau and the Duke of Alba could not have been better. An art connoisseur, the Duke had developed a taste for antiquity, and even went to Egypt on his honeymoon accompanied by no less than Howard Carter — the archeologist who shortly afterwards would discover the tomb of Tutankhamen. Rateau himself, after visiting Pompeii in 1914, fell in love with the fantastic universe of ancient Rome and devoted his entire career to reimagining the aesthetics of the Romans. He made bronze furniture inspired by the frescoes of excavated Pompeiian villas. Both men were entranced by the art of the ancient world before creating these exceptional rooms.
The Liria Palace installation is so legendary that design enthusiasts have known about it for decades, but only from a small number of black-and-white photographs reproduced in books. These precious objects were desired and dreamed about, but inaccessible until now.
Now, Christie’s offers Rateau’s legendary furniture. “The House of Alba,” it was announced, “has decided to sell the Armand Albert Rateau furniture in order to support the funding of its various palaces throughout Spain.”
A pair of floor lamps salvaged from four, originally created for the bathroom.
A low table with a black marble top. A sofa in gilt carved wood.
A carved and gilt wood adjustable day bed, with carved drapery pattern and bronze tassels.
A white Carrara marble bathtub.
This landmark offering is the largest collection of furniture by Rateau to surface the market in recent years, and quite possibly the most dreamed about.