Tutorial Tuesday - For the Love of René Lalique

For the Love of Lalique!


As leading glass specialists Fieldings Auctioneers handle everything from 18th Century drinking glasses to contemporary creations from leading designers. Of the many pieces of glass that pass through our saleroom Lalique glass remains one of the most sought after. Will Farmer tells the story of this outstanding designer whose style and designs went from fluid Art Nouveau to striking Art Deco.


Creative genius....


The name Lalique is synonymous with quality craftsmanship, luxurious products and scintillating style.  Rene Lalique created a legacy of work which would live on long after his death and which today is collected by admirers from around the world. While prices can easily tip in the heady heights of thousands, even tens of thousands, don’t be put off! A steady nerve, keen eye and perseverance can help you find pieces for less then a £100, after that……the sky’s the limit! 


René Lalique was born in 1860, in the small village of Ay, in the Marne region of France. It was a time before light bulbs, and telephones, automobiles and washing machines however by the time of his death in 1945 just two months before the dawn of the atomic age, he would have successfully mastered two careers spanning two different centuries in two dramatically different styles. 


By 1900 at the age of 40, he was the most celebrated jeweller in the world and an Art Nouveau artist and designer of magnificent proportions. However by 1925, at the height of the Art Deco era he was to become the most celebrated glassmaker in the world with patrons ranging from stars of screen and stage to the highest Royal Courts of Europe. Lalique would leave his contemporaries behind as he turned from unique jewellery and objects d'art to the mass production of innovative and usable art glass. 


During his career as a jeweller he had become increasingly intrigued with the artistic possibilities of glass. This fascination slowly developed into obsession resulting in an artistic output that would far outstrip his earlier jewellery work. By the time of his death the catalogue of his creations totalled over 1500 pieces ranging from daringly dramatic vases to monumental architectural works. 


Lalique ignored the limitations of glass and through experimentation quickly became a master of the material. Capitalising on the mass production process’s of pressed glass manufacture it is estimated that in the 20-year period between the wars the Lalique factories produced well over 10 million separate pieces of high-quality glass (let alone the millions more made since his death). 


In 1905, Lalique opened a retail store in the Place Vendome in Paris. Fortuitously, his new store was located very close to the shop of the perfume seller, Francois Coty. In 1908 Lalique was approached by Francois Coty to develop a range of decorative labels to attach to small simple scent files. Lalique grasped this opportunity and while creating the distinctively decorative labels he began developing bottles to apply them to! Prior to this perfume bottles were plain flasks holding expensive scents for the wealthy classes. The invention of synthetic oils turned production from limited to mass market and with it Lalique saw the potential to take a plain everyday object and turn it into an art object. He became the preeminent manufacturer of perfume bottles, designing and producing hundreds of bottles for dozens of firms.


The next 30 years brought forth an incredible array of designs, which transitioned the florid foliate styles of Art Nouveau to the bold geometric forms of Art Deco. In all, over 300 vases are documented alone together with the many dishes, light fittings and car mascots, the list goes on and on. It is a mind boggling number of pieces created by Rene Lalique which show him to be quite simply an artistic genius.


Lalique's vases are another highly popular auction sale item and can vary hugely in price from low hundreds to many thousands of pounds. A simple example can be bought quite easily for a three figure sum and Fieldings Auctioneers have handled many such pieces however back in 2004 Fieldings Auctioneers sold a rare electric blue Perruches vase on bronze stand for a hammer price of £8600, some 16 years later that was would be worth well in excess of £15,000.


Colour plays a huge part in the commercial value of Rene Laliques work. It can be confusing to discover two seemingly similar vases priced with quite dramatically different estimates. The colour effects the value with clear and frosted pieces being the most affordable while a rare colour such as jade green, red or amethyst dramatically increasing the value. 


Figural works are also hugely popular with collectors and can show some of the highest prices at auction. From car mascots to lamps, vases to bowls, the female for, is often featured by René Lalique and these remain some of the most desirable. Fieldings Auctioneers sold a beautiful opalescent figure of Suzanne with her arms outstretched and fabric draped for £9000 while only a few years ago we were fortunate to have consigned for sale the rare Vitesse car mascot modelled as a nude female with arms raised behind her head. After a great deal of interest the figure sold for £14,500 to a collector in America where she now lives. 


Also as a collector its important to note the difference between pieces manufactured before and after Rene Laliques death. Those created during his lifetime bear the R for René while following his death that was dropped in favour of just his surname, there more detail on the back stamps below. Following his death and to this day the company bearing his name continue to produce beautifully designed and manufactured glass and in many instances have re-released limited editions of his earlier and most sought after designs. Its worth noting that while stunning and obviously from the imagination of Rene himself they are considerably more affordable than the original examples. For any collector it's all about your budget but the one thing about collecting Lalique glass is that it has wonderful and affordable pieces at entry level to get any collector started, there is a Lalique vase for every taste and every budget in nearly every colour.


The Lalique List


What to collect?


Despite the inherent fragility of glass, a great deal has survived meaning collectors have a great deal to choose from. Typical items include vases, bowls, glasses, figurines, car mascots, chandeliers etc. They can be clear, frosted, stained with colour (notably shades of blue, amber, green, red or black), or opalescent. The latter is created by adding phosphates, fluorine and aluminium oxide to the glass to make it opaque, and then minute quantities of pigment to create subtle tints of colour. This process in particular is very precisely controlled and as such particularly desirable with collectors.


Quite often the biggest problem most new collectors find when setting about putting a collection together is which range to concentrate on. It may be that you are attracted to the hundreds of perfume bottles, a fair number being made for Coty, Molinard, Worth, Roger and Gallet and other French perfume houses. Some basic bottles can be found for under £200 but the more exciting are usually priced at between £500 and £2000 and original packaging adds significantly to the value. For some it can be by theme be it flowers, animals or birds. Lalique created such a huge number of designs that themes can be a very simple way of putting together a stylish collection.


Marks and backstamps!


Apart from some perfume bottles, almost every piece of Lalique bears an etched, impressed or relief moulded mark. Prior to René's death in 1945, it was either the signature R. Lalique, often with France in matching script; or R. LALIQUE in bold capitals, with the base of the L sometimes elongated under rest of the letters. After Rene Laliques death in 1945 the R. was dropped, and since 1950 all pieces have been marked – Lalique, France.

Fakes and forgeries!

There are some fakes out there, both recently made and contemporary to the originals. Some are rather crude, but others are highly convincing so it’s well worth cultivating a relationship with your auctioneer or recommended specialist dealer who will be happy to help you through the possible pit falls faced by a new collector. Noticeable discrepancies to look out for include the use of wrong colours, overly thick rims and, where used, all-over rather than controlled opalescence; many fakes are also much lighter than the originals.


There is a premium for pieces in good condition, unless the piece is particularly rare. Cracks should be avoided as, however small at the outset, they invariably get worse (sometimes suddenly!). Chips and bruises to vulnerable rims and bases can be polished by a professional restorer, however, this can be costly and often disproportionately so! Also be mindful that restoration may distort the original proportions of the piece and this can then of course effect the value.


Lalique has been in fairly constant demand over the last 20 to 30 years, with prices, rising consistently. The primary reason for this may well be the fact that Lalique's distinctive modern designs and use of cool colours fit so well with many late 20th and early 21st Century interiors. Either way it remains a solid and safe investment, which will return years of pleasure and enjoyment!


If you have a piece of Lalique you would like valued or if you would like to learn more about this amazing designer please contact Will Farmer on will@fieldingsauctioneers.co.uk where he'll be happy to help. Over the years Fieldings Auctioneers have handled a huge amount of pieces from Lalique and shown here are just a few highlights. If you click the link below it will show the other wonderful pieces which have passed through our saleroom in recent years. 


View all our Lalique sale results here

Posted on 28 April 2020 in: Auction life

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