A Taste of Carabin

Oct 06,2016 | 16:06 EDT By Bidsquare

As the artistic career of Francois-Rupert Carabin evolved, his works became increasingly erotic. Considered the most brilliant sculptor in wood of the Art Nouveau era, this direction was received with increasing disquiet by the esteemed Revue des arts décoratifs, a publication that had previously championed the artist’s work.

This failed to deter Carabin, who continued to produce work that was a celebration of natural bodily forms, and edged towards the dangerous and threatening psyche of the spirit. The sculptures displayed wit, cunning, intelligence, desire, temptation, and cruelty, and helped redefine what constituted furniture and sculpture. 


On Friday, October 14, Rago offers bidders a chance to add a Carabin to their collections when they offer Lot 13 in their sale of the Jerome Shaw Collection. Shown at the 1907 Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts, this sculpture reveals the psychological and sexual tension that characterizes Carabin. A nude young woman crouches alongside a water lily pond, gazing at a frog emerging from under a lily pad that is metamorphosing into a man. Conversely, one of the woman’s feet has turned amphibian. Not the charming old fairy tale then but rather, a prelude to a strangely erotic, very different narrative.

Carabin was also an accomplished photographer, medal-maker, and designer of ceramics. Lot 11, "Femme à la Coloquinte," was one of a series of small art objects created by Carabin in 1897 that were nominally functional. The artist was commissioned to create these works by Lucien Moline, director of the Galerie Lafitte in Paris, who rejected costly, unique objets d’art in preference to useful objects that could be produced at lesser prices. 

Lot 10 - "LAubergine," is part of the same series and was designed by Carabin as a container for dried fruits. Typical of the sculptor’s work, a dreaming woman embraces an enormous pepper, another cradles a gourd larger than herself, while a third’s small head emerges from the end of the eggplant.

In an effort to emphasize the artistic nature and limited number of the exemplars produced in this series, Carabin individually numbered his ceramics, with little more than a hundred produced of each model. Lot 12, "Femme et Poivre," destined to serve as a tobacco jar, is embossed with the number 68.

Ragos sale of The Jerome Shaw Collection is set down for Friday, October 14 and contains 149 expertly curated lots. Look now at the full catalog.