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”)

Loetz.com

Loetz.com

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    

Signed Lalique France Frosted Crystal Grizzly Bear Ursus Art Glass Figurine BbmSigned Lalique French Art Glass Nogent Sparrow Birds Crystal Compote Dish Iop NrA Stunning Genuine Lalique France Clear And Frosted Glass Figure Of A PerchSigned Lalique French Art Glass Dampierre Stylized Deco Bird Crystal Vase Nr AfbLalique France Crystal Rapace Frosted Owl Figurine - MintLalique Scorpion Paperweight Lead Crystal France W/ Box And Papers Mint NewLalique France Crystal Sparrow Pin TrayRare Vintage Lalique Boutons D’or Glass Powder Box - No Reserve(2) Vintage Lalique France Crystal Napsbury Daisy Old-fashioned Whiskey GlassesLalique France Crystal Champs-Élysées Leaves Beautiful Vintage Centerpiece BowlLalique France -- Liberty Eagle -- Large Crystal Figurine 9 1/4" Signed Statue Lalique Crystal Helix Snail Escargot - ClearIncredible Large Auth R Lalique French Art Deco Archers Pattern Pale Blue VaseLalique Double Fish Figure Ms Exquisite Large Auth. C1930 R Lalique Domremy Opalescent French Art Glass VaseLalique Bowl Koi CrystalImpressive Large Authentic Lalique France Font Romeu Pattern Satin Crystal VaseLalique Birds Clear & Frosted Crystal Book Ends, Made In France.Lalique Crystal #1223000 Dampierre Clear Crystal Vase (france) - Excellent!!! Lalique Art Glass Frosted Greyhound Dog Perceval Sculpture Rare Jaytho Powder Jar – Tulip Motif Circa 1928 Not By R. LaliqueLalique France Crystal Elizabeth Footed Vase Bowl Compote Birds SparrowExcellent Vintage Lalique France Chrysis Nude Maiden Paperweight Car MascotLalique Duncan Atomiser Perfume BottleLalique France French Crystal Art Glass Signed Perfume Bottle Ornate Vintage Lalique France Crystal Charis Dove Figurine'30s Frosted Crystal Decanter Signed R. Lalique France, Inwald BarolacLarge 5.5" Antique Lalique Skyscraper Perfume Bottle J E Reviens For Worth ParisLalique France Dancing Water Nymph Mermaid Ring Jewelry Dish Sirene Naiade Glass4 Lalique Crystal Saint Hubert Champagne GlassesSuperb Lalique Crystal Glass Lion Tray Ashtray Frosted Pattern & BoxLalique France 12229 St Saint Cloud Vase 4-3/4 Inches With Box Acanthus LeafEstate Fresh Lalique France Honfleur Water Lily Art Glass Salad Luncheon PlateLalique Signed Crystal Glass Rainette Sitting Frog Gold Luster Nib FranceLalique Frosted And Clear Perfume BottleLalique France Angel Fish In Yellow "jaune"!! Signed!! Beautiful!!Lalique France Poissons Angel Fish Violet Purple # 30022!! Beautiful!!Lalique France Frosted Crystal Art Glass Sparrow Bird Head Up Figure PaperweightLalique Style Romantic Frosted Glass Plaque By Charles Serouja 9" X 9" X 3"Lalique "tete De Lion" Double Lion Head Lighter With Ronson LighterVintage Signed Lalique France - Owl - 3.5" Tall, Mint Condition, OriginalVintage Lalique France Crystal Jamaique Lighter Mcm Rare Art Glass Signed Lalique Frosted Crystal Owl Statue / France / SignedVintage Signed Lalique Crystal Rapace Bird Of Prey Figurine, France 2 1/4" Lalique France Flower Paperweight Crystal SignedLalique Creve Coeur Rooster (orange) Paperweight With Original Box, 1993 DesignLalique Swallow Head Down Paperweight #11604Lalique Swallow Preening Head Paperweight #11605Lalique Swallow Head Up Paperweight #11606Lalique Swallow Wings Out Paperweight #11633Lalique Bird Design Knife Or Chopstick Rests Lead Crystal France + Box $550 ListLalique Mouse Paperweight Lead Crystal France W/ Box And Papers Mint NewLalique France 5-1/2 Inch Dinner Bell Frosted Crystal Sparrow BirdLalique Crystal Glass French Partridge Dove Preening Bird FigurineLalique France Crystal Owl Pin TrayLalique 4-hirondelles Locket PendantSigned Lalique Clear & Frosted Crystal Sylvie Two Doves Vase - Beautiful!Vintage Lalique France Frosted Crystal Glass Sparrow Bird Figurine - 5" X 3" Lalique Begonia Leaf Crystal Bowl/plate French Art Deco Glass 8 1/2”-ex!Signed Lalique Frosted Glass Virgin Mary Madonna & Baby Jesus Figurine Statue