Chiaroscuro at Laurent Vanlian

Collector at heart, great lover of 19th century furniture, expert in luminaire and Armenian art, Laurent Vanlian opens the very secret doors of his boudoir. Donations to the Museums, Biennale and sales to his passionate customers, his collections are rarely private… Learned person and extremly keen to share its knowledge, let this antique dealer make you discover his universe and reveal your taste for the great classic.

Tell us about your background

Very young, I wanted to be a cabinetmaker. I passed the examination entrance of the Ecole Boulle (one of the most famous cabinet maker school in France) but not having obtained it, I finally started in old furniture importation. I was 19 yeas old when I started my profession. I had bought a trailer without knowing what was in it.

After participating at many antiques fairs in Fontainebleau with imported old furniture, I wanted to settle down and this is how I ended up at Paul Bert Serpette. It was 28 years ago. After 36 years of activity, I still think I'm lucky to do a profession based on passion. I have the luxury of being able to buy what I like and to be able to live on it.

What is your specialty?

At the beginning, I offered a lot of 17th and 18th French furniture. With the money I earned, I was able to acquire 19th furniture, not to take the opposite of the trends, but by asserted taste. I bought furniture from Edouard Lièvre and other great French artists… One day I decided to sell only what I like: mainly French creation from 1830 to 1890, inspired by Renaissance, Gothic , Chinese, Japanese ...

I have always been accompanied in my job, by my wife at the beginning, then by a bronze specialist, a documentalist and various employees…

Allongside this passion for furniture, we are specialized in old lighting, from the 18th century crystal chandeliers, to the 1890 luminaire. With our workshop and our stock of 30,000 old crystals, we can restore chandeliers without having need to add new pieces. The magic of the crystal and the bronze decoration gives a sculptural aspect to the old lightings which I consider more like a work of art than a lighting system.

I have a real pleasure in keeping mystery around my pieces. I wait to know the desires of a customer, to determine his taste and then I propose furniture that can match with him. I will never go against my personal taste. If I don't sell a piece of furniture, I don't mind living with it.

But if you love your pieces so much, don't you sometimes find it difficult to sell them?

It depends on the customer, if I feel that he is warned, it is easier for me to sell him. I trust the decor that will host the object.

My clients often share my passion and come to see me at least once a year, to satisfy it. I sincerely love this relational aspect of my profession. Being a collector at heart, I need to love to buy. If I love a piece, I do not count, and then I can succumb to a certain euphoria…

Do you sometimes lend your pieces to museums?

I often lend pieces to museums in France and abroad, to complete exhibitions and promote the creation of the 19th century, very often at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs. The museum of architecture presented an exhibition on the famous Geoffroy-Dechaume, I then brought some rare objects there. If curators contact me, I am happy to offer my support. An antique dealer often takes pleasure in buying the whole work of an artist, what is called "making a complete", for the pleasure of building a collection.

How did you organize your booth to enhance the value of your collections?

My booth is made up of two spaces. One is envisioned as a boudoir, a small curiosity cabinet with dark walls, lined with damask fabrics. The little boudoir proves to experienced collectors that they can create their own intimacy in a small space, with furniture that may not please their spouse. Beyond inspiring, it also creates a warm space to chat with customers and establish a relationship of trust. Good customers have become friends and it is no coincidence. The other side is more modern with its Carrara marble floor, the clarity of the mirrors and the white walls.

Which piece would you like to present to us today?

I just bought a sandstone gourd by Jules Ziegler, an artist I really appreciate. In the past, I offered two pieces by this artist to the Museum of Decorative Arts to complete a rather rare series that the curator has been looking for, for twenty of years. It is not an expensive piece but it is a museum piece. I appreciate the patina and the details. I immediatly imagined this gourd in a set. I like to compose decorations and certain pieces catch my eye instantly by their swirls and their colors which I visualize in the middle of rooms which I already have.

Why Paul Bert Serpette?

In my opinion, it's the best market. It has a good dynamic and the clientele is endowed with a very good artistic education. Paul Bert Serpette is ultimately a museum where you can buy…