Le Bec-Fin, Georges Perrier’s famous Philadelphia restaurant open from 1970 until 2013, was internationally known as America’s finest French restaurant, earning five stars for decades. The gathering place for those who appreciated extraordinary cuisine in a luxurious setting, Le Bec-Fin was without doubt a jewel in America’s culinary crown; the exquisite galettes de crabe and quenelles de brochet were a public manifestation of Georges Perrier’s sumptuous taste. What few knew, however, was that privately, Perrier had amassed an impressive collection of French decorative arts of the 18th and 19th centuries.
Born in 1943 in Lyon, France, Perrier began his culinary career at 14. He apprenticed under Michel Lorrain in Lyon, Jacques Picard in Provence, and Guy Thivard at Ferdinand Point’s legendary “La Pyramide” in Vienne. In addition to his many cooking accolades, he was awarded the French Légion d’Honneur in 2009, the highest civilian merit award conferred by the French government. His love for France and his constant drive to reach for the heights of fine dining and living helped form an eye as refined as his palate.
The collection of Georges Perrier is what one would expect from an international arbiter of taste and luxury. Works by Lacroix, Dubois, Nogaret, Leleu, Nadal dit l’Aîné, Kemp and Tuart are highlights of the Perrier collection, which also includes works by the Manufacture de Sèvres, fine examples of ormolu from the Régence through Louis XVI periods and French portraiture of the 18th and 19th centuries.
A masterpiece of French marquetry work is a Louis XV/Louis XVI transitional ormolu-mounted acajou, kingwood and fruitwood commode dating to the early 1770s by René Dubois (1737-1788), son of the celebrated Jacques Dubois (1693-1763). The complex floral marquetry scenes of this commode are brought to the fore against its clean lines, restrained ormolu mounts, and unblemished Breccia di Tivoli marble top. It is stamped prominently “I. DUBOIS” and bears the JME stamp.
Ever the eminent host, Mr. Perrier also collected smaller meubles and occasional tables for entertaining. Examples in this sale include pieces by premiere Parisian ébénistes of the 18th century: Roger Vandercruse, dit Lacroix (1727-1799), Jean-François Leleu (1729-1807), François Reizell (maître 1764) and Guillaume Kemp (active 1757–86), among several others. Of particular note is a fine ormolu-mounted mahogany table de milieu by Lacroix, bearing all the characteristics of his well-constructed and highly refined style, stamped to the underside R. LACROIX and with JME stamp.
Perhaps the most delightful piece in the collection is a fine Louis XVI ormolu-mounted mahogany mechanical poudreuse by Jean-François Leleu. Intended to hide the most personal effects of a stylish member of the French noblesse, it presents as a guéridon but converts into a poudreuse with hinged mirror and well-hidden secret compartments. This table exemplifies Leleu’s aesthetic of sculptural proportions and restrained design executed with flawless technique, and is stamped to the underside J*F*LELEU and JME.
The collection boasts two wonderful Louis XV ormolu-mounted kingwood parquetry bracket clocks, including a magnificent, overscaled example by François Goyer (maître 1740). Signed on the face and backplate “A. R. Sandaux/a Paris;” the case and conforming bracket by are fitted with finely cast ormolu rocailles of exceptional quality, the case stamped “F. Goyer” and JME to verso. Several lots of fine porcelain by the Manufacture Royale de Sèvres round out the sale, centered around a particularly beautiful Louis XV part déjeuner dated 1768, decorated with a bleu fonce ground and stripes of roses within gilt-bordered medallions reminiscent of the silk lampas patterns produced during this period at Lyon.
The lavish display of elegance and quality within this collection is a testament to Perrier, whose own taste has left a permanent mark on the city of Philadelphia and the culinary history of the United States. Freeman’s is pleased to offer Le Collection Georges Perrier so that these extraordinary pieces may pass to new collectors who seek the very best in design, quality and le bon gout!