A majestic and rare Ruhlmann piano that sailed aboard the legendary 1930s ocean liner SS Normandie will sell as the highlight of Sotheby's 20th Century Design auction on March 6 in New York.
The art deco grand piano boasts an estimate of $400,000-600,000, standing as the highest valued lot of the sale. It is one of only six known Ruhlmann pianos, and one of just three in a similar style.
It was once housed in the ladies' drawing room of SS Normandie - also known as the Queen of the Seas - which was famed for its luxurious interiors that were reportedly comparable to rooms at the Palace of Versailles. Originally designed for an unknown family by Emile-Jacques Ruhlmann (1879-1933), whose style epitomised French art deco, the piano would have perfectly complemented the efforts of France's most prestigious designers, who had been assembled to work on the ship.
The illustrious Butler family of Buffalo, New York - founders of The Buffalo News - then purchased Ruhlmann's unusual piano in the 1940s, and it has remained part of their opulent mansion in the area ever since, having been passed down by descent to the consignor.
Crafted from Macassar ebony and painted oak with an American walnut veneer, the piano boasts ivory marquetry and piano keys, with a wonderful patinated bronze lyre-shaped pedal suspension and sabots.
Paul Fraser Collectibles is currently offering an extremely rare signed photograph of the great 1930s pianist and composer George Gershwin, on which he has also written an extract from "a la Charleston."