Attribution error at Tajan for a $16,700 secretary to DIM

On April of 2007, the (late) largest French auction house had a wooden secretary for sale. Valued between $13,400 - $16,700, the piece of furniture was wrongly assigned to « DIM (Philippe Joubert ?-1931 & René Petit) ». We fixed this!


At DOCANTIC, we investigate the proper identification of 20th Century furniture, and provide accurate documentation. Here’s an example from our case files!


TAJAN got pulled over by DOCANTIC PATROL for Identity theft violation: wrong artist!


On April 4th, 2007, TAJAN held a 20th Century Design sale which included an elegant secretary attributed to DIM (Décoration Intérieure Moderne), a famous furniture company founded in 1918 by architect and cabinet maker René Joubert, and by painter Georges Mouveau ; Philippe Petit joined the company in 1924,(exhibit #1).


Exhibit #1

This case reveals three irregularities:


The first one is the failure to clearly identify the designer and rather pulling out the “attribution” wildcard. An attribution means that according to an expert’s (un)awareness, there are numerous elements that allow to determine who the designer of a piece of furniture is, but that there isn’t however any concrete proof to support this claim. In other words, an attribution allows the auctioneer to make efficient well-known-names-dropping to motivate bidders, without having to bear with the legal consequences in case of a mistake. If it isn’t tortious, this very case is undoubtedly a professional negligence. In fact, the documented proof did exist when the secretary was offered for sale: the exhibit #2 was published 79 years before the auction sale took place!


The second one is the suggestion of a lead… that turned out to be wrong! According to the January 1928 edition of “Mobilier et Décoration”, this secretary was indeed created by Pierre Lucas and lacquered by Marcel Charpentier (Exhibit #2). Even by reading the article backwards, there is no way to come up with any “DIM” name!


Exhibit #2


The last irregularity is syntax-based. By advertising the secretary as attributed to « DIM (Philippe Joubert ?-1931 & René Petit) », TAJAN obviously had a score to settle. Not only have Joubert and Petit been assigned a secretary they didn’t make, but the expert also found a way to mix up the innocents’ names (Exhibit #3). The lot #27 of this very sale suffered from the same symptoms. Therefor,  the typo-theory was  discarded. Now or never, TAJAN should invest in truthful documentation and in an artists’ directory before it becomes incurable.


Exhibit #3


By combining inaccuracies with a misspelt & wrong attribution, the lot #126 of this auction sale had little to no chances to be sold… bad news for TAJAN, the “negative times negative equals positive” theorem only works in math!




How do we classify our files? Find out here.


Book ’em! The auction house or the art dealer provided little or no corroborating evidence in the form of documentation for this item.


Time Off!  The expert made a significant mistake on this item. His attributed period came in way off. No early parole!


Missing persons alert! The auction house or the art dealer failed to uncover and identify the artist for this item.


Identity theft! They’re guilty of the worst crime of all: mislabeling the artist with another alias. And Picasso painted the Mona Lisa, right?!






The obsessive, nitpicky and no-holds-barred investigative team at DOCANTIC maintains an unparalleled database of original documentation for 20th Century, Art Nouveau, and Art Deco & Design furniture and works of art.

At DOCANTIC we believe that designers deserve proper identification for each work they have created, and that any art lover should confidently pay the right price for his or her purchase. We see the art world filled with both talented artists and con artist and, therefore, also riddled with innumerable attribution errors and outrageous pricing mistakes. By supplying authentic period photographs, DOCANTIC catches and apprehends the undervaluation (or overvaluation) of furniture and works of art. That’s our mission. We stop errors dead in their tracks. We serve and protect 20th Century furniture’s reputation.

Headquartered in Los Angeles, DOCANTIC sets the bar for the identification of 20th Century furniture, and shares with every art lover the information that has been kept under wraps by a handful of experts for far too long!