The name of René Lalique has become internationally recognized as a mark of quality in the production of luxury glasswork. The first phase of his career, however, was as a creator, around 1900, of spectacular and superbly crafted jewels that captured the spirit of the fin-de-siècle with their Art Nouveau lines and their Symbolist themes. He challenged the conventions of jewelry design, mixing precious and non-precious materials and placing more importance on the effects that could be achieved through enamels than on the explotation of high-value stones.
His involvement in working in glass was a natural extension of his work with enamels. In the first years of the new century he became ever-more enamored of this medium, abandoning his activity as a jeweler and setting up an atelier for the production of high-quality glass. By the early 1920s, he was triumphant in this field, building an impressive catalogue of decorative wares, including vases, lamps, and perfume bottles, and fulfilling special commissions, such as the magnificent doors he created for Jacques Doucet, or the pavilion he conceived for the 1925 Paris exhibition. The stylized plant, insect, figural and abstract themes that he developed became synonymous with Art Deco and established his lasting international reputation.
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The frieze of naked male athletes that is the striking theme of this vase calls to mind Lalique's use of a similar subject - in that instance figures leaning in dynamic movement rather than standing - in the panels for the magnificent pair of doors that he created in 1912 for the avenue du Bois home of distinguished patron and collector Jacques Doucet.