This is a prototype of the Elephant chair designed by French artist Bernard Rancillac in 1966. The highly stylised elephant form is created in Fiberglas and is supported on an enameled wrought iron cradle base. Examples of this piece can be found in the collections of the Musee des arts Decoratifs in Paris in the blue color, and a white example at the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum in New York, among others.
According to information provided by Michel Roudillon himself, this example is one of the six pre-production prototypes made in 1985 in order to check that the final form and colours of the authorised reedition of 100 individually numbered pieces conformed to those of the original 1966 Lacloche gallery edition. These differ to the final edition of 100 numbered pieces in that they were not numbered, as per examples from the original 1960s Lacloche edition which were also not individually numbered, and in addition the prototypes were also not fitted with a small carrying handle to the rear. This is therefore an original piece of French Pop design and is a pre-production prototype. In total, 166 Elephant chairs are believed to have been produced over both editions; 60 unnumbered examples from the original 1960s Lacloche gallery edition, most of these were finished in either red or orange (20 of each), plus the 1985 limited re-edition of 100 numbered examples by Roudillon in 1985, which were available in five colours, 20 of each colour were produced, plus the six Roudillon prototypes of which this is one.
This example was found near Paris, having been stored in a damp basement of a holiday home in the countryside. It had been used by the family on their outdoor patio for many years leaving a surface build up of lichen in the folds in the fibreglass and lower areas of the seat where water had sat for long periods. There were also areas of UV yellowing and natural surface dirt accumulation over the years. Small areas of the Fiberglas edges had started to split in a few spots due to wear and water ingress. To this end, the piece was professionally cleaned and had the small damaged areas sympathetically restored by a Fiberglas specialist while still maintaining the originality of the piece. The wrought iron cradle base has not been re-enameled and has been left completely original as found, showing areas of light surface rust in places. The underside surface of the Fibrerglas has been left completely original to retain its authenticity and historical importance. A series of photographs showing the pre-restored condition of the piece, as well as the restoration process, may be provided.
The Elephant chair is a classic of the French avant garde, and Pierre Cardin has one adorning one of the outdoor terraces at his Palais Bulles in the South of France. The chair was introduced as part of the contemporary design exhibition 'l'Objet 2', presented at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in 1966 ,which was organized by the Galerie Lacloche in Paris in collaboration with the museum. The exhibition was a follow up to the museum's also iconic 1962 exhibition 'Antagonisme 2- L'Objet'. Further literature sources are below.
- 'L'objet 2 pour un mobilier contemporain', 1966 original exhibition catalog, Michel Ragon, Galerie Lacloche, Paris, Fig 5
- 'Le Mobilier français 1965-1979', page 51, by Gilles de Bure, from Regard, Paris, 1983
- 'The Palais Bulles of Pierre Cardin', pages 184-5 by J.P Hesse from Assoulin, 2012