Even though he is known today for his antique art glass, René Lalique (1860-1945) began his career in 1881 as a freelance jeweler. Lalique’s fascination with three-dimensional decorative objects informed his Art Nouveau vases, perfume bottles, bowls, and decanters, which were typically pressed into molds to create patterns and reliefs of animals, foliage, or both. Later in his career, Lalique also designed stemware, tableware, clocks, and lamps.

Lalique’s contribution to the field of art glass began roughly in 1902, when he established a small glassworks at Clairfontaine outside of Paris. There he made molded glass plaques and decorative panels. He brought a jeweler’s precise eye to his first pieces, which were created using a jewelry casting process called cire perdue, or lost wax.

In cire perdue, a design would be carved by hand into wax, pressed into clay to create a mold, and then melted out (or lost) so that molten glass could be poured in. It was a primitive process, but Lalique made good use of it through the 1920s.

One of Lalique’s earliest clients was François Coty, who commissioned Lalique to design perfume bottles for him. Lalique would eventually design some 16 bottles for Coty, along with a number of other objects and the windows for Coty’s headquarters in New York at 712 Fifth Avenue (you can still see them today). The workload was so great that in 1909, Lalique rented a larger glassworks at Combs-la-Ville east of Paris. In 1910 he purchased that facility outright.

Combs-la-Ville had long attracted glassblowers, thanks to the area’s plentiful supplies of silica-rich sand. Lalique liked the look of the glass it created, and he chose not to add lead to his batches, even though it meant that his products would not be officially labeled as lead crystal. Lalique preferred his demi-crystal because it was inexpensive and easy to work with. Above all, he liked the milky opalescence of the final product.

Lalique collaborated with Coty through the 1930s. During this time, he also designed perfume bottles for other perfume makers, including d’Orsay and Roger et Gallet, for whom Lalique made a bottle crowned by one of his famous tiara stoppers (one of Lalique’s most copied designs). Later, as Lalique’s name became as synonymous with perfume bottles as Coty’s, he would make empty perfume bottles of his own, the Tantot and Amphitrite being but two examples.

World War I halted production at Combs-la-Ville from 1915 to 1919. And then, in the 1920s, Lalique really hit his stride. It was during this period that he produced a number of one-of-a-kind and limited run vases and sculptural objects. Some bore reliefs of pairs of parakeets and lovebirds, a motif he would use throughout his career. Others featured intricate and slightly fearsome wasps...

The Courges vases from this period are unusual if only because they are relatively rare examples that are saturated with color. Even though the vast majority of Lalique’s work from this period was pearly and opalescent, some of these gourds had metal oxides mixed into the glass to turn them blue (cobalt), red (chromium), or yellow (uranium).

By 1921, Lalique had opened a high-volume factory at Wingen-sur-Moder, in Alsace. The goal was to increase production and make Lalique’s work more affordable to the masses. In the 1920s, Lalique designed some 200 vases for production at Wingen. Here press-molding techniques were perfected. Most of the vases had wide necks so that the plunger used to force molten glass into the mold could be easily removed. The result was an exterior with crisp, sharp lines and an interior that was perfectly smooth.

Vases from this period include the ovoid Ronces, which appear to have been woven from a tangle of thorny vines. Some of the Ronces were translucent; others were amber, blue, or red, the latter being a difficult color to work with. Later, the Ronce design was repurposed as a base for a table lamp. Other vases were adorned with fang-bearing snakes or gazelles sitting beneath a canopy of stars. The molded surface of the decorative Languedoc vase was a tight pattern of what look like stylized coleus leaves.

The 1920s were also a decade for figurative vases and vessels. Most depicted women—Naïades consists of a frieze of mermaids holding aloft a shallow bowl—but some such as the Archers and Palèstre vases featured male forms. Lalique’s famous statuettes also leaned heavily to female nudes, as did his illuminated plaques, with Suzanne (a nude with outstretched arms holding a curtain of glass behind her) being perhaps his most famous.

From around 1925 to 1930, Lalique produced about 20 so-called car mascots, which were designed to replace the hood ornaments on luxury automobiles. Today, these heads of horses, peacocks, and roosters are among the most prized antique Laliques available, if you can even find one. Other examples include a goldfish, a wild boar, and a frog.

Lalique accepted a number of other high-profile architectural commissions during the 1920s, including the dining cars on the Orient Express, the Oviatt Building in Los Angeles, the Peace Hotel in Shanghai. As the 1930s arrived, Lalique’s work embraced Art Deco. Now the molding technologies Lalique had been refining seemed especially at home, particularly in a 1935 piece like Souston, an artichoke-shaped vase whose ridges and lines feel downright architectural.

Tableware and glassware also made an appearance in the 1930s. There were glasses and goblets, tumblers with a matching jug, and lots of carafes, each with its own handsome stopper. Plates and bowls sported swirling patterns suggesting sea urchins, anemones, and sand dollars.

Other pieces from the Depression years include lidded boxes of all sorts (both square and round), ashtrays, and clocks, including one timepiece housed within a panel of opalescent glass that has been molded with reliefs of Lalique’s beloved birds.

But this was the Depression, so in 1937 the glassworks at Combs-la-Ville closed. World War II shuttered a second Lalique factory, this time from 1940 to 1945, but Lalique himself stuck around until the Germans surrendered to Allied Forces on May 9, 1945. Two days later, one of the 20th century’s most influential designers would pass away, but his work ensures that he will never be forgotten.

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)



This fabulous site is a guide to Bohemian art glass makers from 1885 to 1920. Loetz was the premier Bohemian glass … [read review or visit site]

Cloud Glass Reference Site

Cloud Glass Reference Site

Chris and Val Stewart’s impressive attempt to create a complete catalogue of all known cloud glass, a decorative … [read review or visit site]

Antique Glass Salt and Sugar Shaker Club

Antique Glass Salt and Sugar Shaker Club

The heart of this website, home of the Antique Glass Salt and Sugar Shaker Club, is the Identification Project, whe… [read review or visit site]

Clubs & Associations

Discussion Forums

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

Panier De Fruits Blue Patina Pendant R LaliqueRene Lalique 1926: Blue "cigognes" Vase. Signed R Lalique. 7.2". Internal Break.Stunning Lalique Art Glass Signed French Heavy Molded Leaf Centerpiece Bowl Gift? Auction! Tall $1,130 New Box Lalique Peacock Blue Crystal Figurine Statue Rene Lalique 1942: Large "coupe" (bowl) "marly" . Signed R Lalique. 12". 2 ChipsLalique Paris Jewlwery BoxGroup Of Three Lalique Candle Holders In Frosted Three Anenome PatternLalique Crystal Nogent Four Bird Pedistal Bowl Excellent Beautiful 3-3/8 X 5-1/2Fine Vintage Lalique Frosted French Crystal Birds Dampierre Vase Mint FranceLalique Nogent Made In France Crystal Four Bird Pedastal Bowl Signed ExcellentFine Vtg Lalique Frosted French Crystal Nogent Sparrows Compote Bowl Dish FranceLalique :dragon In Red Satin Finished Crystal In Original Packaging. Huge Vintg 80's Lalique Glass Mirabelle #2 Toilet Perfume Bottle Jar Signed Box1931 R.lalique Green Glass Ashtray " Irene" W Frosted Bird Designs 3 5/8" SignedNew Rare Lalique France Falcon Psyche Royal Blue Perfume Bottle Blue Signed BoxEarly French Rene Lalique Crystal Raisins Vase Blue Patina Circa 1928 SignedFrench Lalique Angel Champagne / Wine Flute Crystal StemRare Lalique L'air Du Temps By Nina Ricci Double Dove 12 1/2" Display StopperLalique Crystal Signed Pinsons Finches Birds Large 9 1/4 " Salad Or Serving BowlPair Signed Lalique France Art Glass Tete De Lion Candle Vases Urns 3 3/4"Mib Lalique​ France Clairefontaine Lily Of The Valley Art Crystal Perfume BottleHuge R Lalique France Crystal Tray PlatterDiscontinued Retired Lalique Crystal Statue Figurine A Girl And A Goat - SignedLalique France Signed Crystal Sparrow Head Tucked Bird Figurine CoquetGenuine Lalique 'flacon Clairefontaine' Perfume Bottle Model 1130000Signed Lalique France Crystal Dampiere Frosted Sparrow Bird Vine Art Glass VaseLalique Frosted Crystal Partridge Bird FigureGenuine Lalique Green Butterfly Model 1218000 + BoxSigned Lalique France Art Glass Frosted Leaves Crystal Vase 4 1/4" Genuine Lalique 'flacon 2 Fleurs' Perfume Bottle Model 1130100Lalique France Crystal Bison PaperweightLalique Glass Pelican FigureLalique French Tree Of Life Algues Noir - 7.75" Lot Of 2Signed Lalique Sanglier/razorback Boar Paperweight Hood Ornament Vintage Lalique Dampierre French Crystal Birds VaseLalique Genuine Mermaid Theano BoxedGenuine Lalique Amber Starfish Model 1185900 + BoxGenuine Lalique Amber Turtle Model 1214300 + BoxGenuine Lalique Mandarin Duck Model 1210000 + BoxLovely Large Signed French Lalique 10" Diameter Nemours BowlA Beautiful And Original Lalique France Clear And Frosted Glass Figure Of A BirdLalique France "deux Fleurs" Perfume Bottle Lalique Perfume Bottle CatusGenuine Lalique Golden Scarab + BoxVintage Lalique France Frosted Crystal Glass Bird Figurine SignedLalique Bird Signed Rare FigureR. Lalique WorthLalique Crystal Signed Sparrow Bird Figurine Paperweight Estate Fresh & Mint NorPair Lalique Frosted Crystal Sparrow Bird 2 Figurine Paperweights Moineau FranceLalique Frosted Crystal Sparrow/bird - SignedLalique Crystal Glass Figurine Raptor Hawk Bird Of Prey 2 5/16 Inch Paperweight Lalique Dampierre Footed Crystal Art Glass Vase Bird BirdsLalique Crystal Art Glass Les Enfants Liqueur Shot Glass Signed Vintage Lalique Leda & The Swan Mother Goose Frosted Art Glass Figurine FranceNew Auth Lalique Crystal Royal Palm Antinea Vase Perfume Jar Signed Box FranceR. Lalique -1931 Antique French Art-deco Glass 'chardonneret Timide' Bird MascotLalique Crystal Small Ash Tray With Open Winged Dove Dish Pin Tray Signed Lalique France Frosted Squirrel Jewelry Trinket Ring Art Glass Dish NowlLalique 2000 Art Nude Sylphide Miniature Perfume Glass Bottle Full NewHeavy Crystal Glass Freeform Bowl W Frosted Owl Made In France Bacarrat Lalique?