René Lalique (1860-1945) was, and remains, one of the most celebrated designers of his generation - achieving a pinnacle of excellence in two specific arenas. Firstly, he distinguished himself as the most significant Art Nouveau jewellery designer, acknowledged for his creative genius by being made an Officer of the French Légion d’honneur, one of the highest accolades awarded in France. Subsequently in a second career, he established himself as an Art Deco designer and one of the most important glass makers of the 20th Century. In both careers, his greatness lay in the quality of his designs and his ability to keep in step with current fashion.
After being apprenticed to Louis Aucoc and having worked as an independent designer for the houses, such as Cartier and Boucheron, René Lalique established his jewellery business in Paris in 1885.
Lalique broke with the traditional understanding of jewellery-making by his exploration of new materials. He still worked with precious metals and gemstones but innovatively combined these with semi-precious stones and horn, as well as with glass and enamel.
This extraordinary suite of jewellery, sold in our October 2020 auction of Select Jewellery & Watches for £26,250*, demonstrates both Lalique’s skill as a jeweller and a glassmaker as well as his love of nature. The suite comprises a bracelet, brooch and earrings in vibrant green glass, enamel and diamond and was originally designed for socialite Mrs Florence Evelyn St George in c.1905-10, whose father was the third richest man in America at the time.
From about 1894 René Lalique turned his attention to glass. By 1909 he employed 50 to 100 workers, but after the First World War bought a factory in Wingen-sur-Moder, Alsace, in the east of France, when the workforce grew to hundreds. That region already had a glass-making tradition and the Lalique factory remains there today. Lalique produced high-quality glass using moulds to create beautiful figural and natural designs. Colour is also a key part of the work, the distinct milky blue opaque quality being something that no one else has been able to imitate either during Lalique’s lifetime or subsequently.
Lalique was hugely prolific in the breadth and variety of his ranges - making everything from dressing table objects to dining wares, as well as vases, lights, car mascots, jewellery, and architectural features. Besides smaller items, he also exhibited two whole dining rooms completed with fittings, lighting and table ware at the 1925 International Exhibition of Modern Industrial and Decorative Arts in Paris. The exhibition provided him with an ideal opportunity to showcase his work. Having already made a name for himself as an Art Nouveau master, now Lalique was able to garner huge respect as an Art Deco designer too.
Lyon & Turnbull’s Design Department is delighted to be introducing Lalique as a new biannual sale category in 2021. No other auction house offers specialist sales devoted entirely to the work of René Lalique. The first sale is scheduled to take place on 29 April in the Mall Galleries, London. Joy McCall will be heading these sales as she previously did at Christie’s, London for many years. She has over 24 years of experience selling Lalique and brings to the process her knowledge and expertise together with a personal passion for the subject.