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Rare ‘Rhododendrons’ Table Lamp, circa 1920
mold-blown cameo glass, patinated bronze
18 1⁄2 in. (47 cm) high, 14 1⁄4 in. (36.2 cm) diameter of shade
shade and base signed in cameo Gallé
A. Duncan and G. de Bartha, Glass by Gallé, New York, 1984, p. 157
A. Duncan, G. de Bartha, Gallé Lamps, Suffolk, 2014, p. 60, pl. 5.4

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Lot Essay

For Gallé, the last period known as the Establissements Gallé, was a time of large scale production and expansion due to important new techniques and advances of industry during the first quarter 20th century. The so called "mold-blown" series of glass lamps and vases from the 1920s, examples such as the Wisteria and Rhododendrons or Cherries lamps, are well known models employing the technique in which the glass was blown with compressed air inside an engraved mold. The Exposition Internationale des Arts Decoratifs et Industriels Modernes, held in Paris in 1925, was the likely incentive for the Etablissments Gallé to introduce the new mold-blown designs to their workshop, although there are no known details regarding their participation in the exhibition.

What set apart the Etablissements Gallé relief lamps and vases from the mold-blown series by other manufactures such as Lalique was the use of multicolor, multilayered crystal. The lamps in particular from this period were akin to the traditional Gallé series of acid etching and cameo engraving but with the added feature of a higher relief than was allowed by simple acid etching. The blending of earlier motifs with new technologies allowed for popular, established Gallé models to be updated with higher reliefs and more pronounced features. Take for example the Wisteria table lamp of this period, lot 89 in this sale, an ambitious and impressive lamp in its scale, with rich colors and lush decoration in both low and high relief. The Rhododendron table lamp, as seen in lots 87 and 88 in this sale, also show the masterful exploitation of the mold-blowing techniques with incredible relief among the blossoms, buds and foliage.

In his 1974 memoirs as a worker in the Etablissements Gallé, Rene Dezavelle, placed the creation of these "mold blown" designs around 1925. Large animal-themed designs are a rare instance among the Establissement Gallé late glass period. Putting aside the traditional animals depicted on vases and lamps (usually fish, insects and small birds), certain, if not all of the others, can be explained as having a symbolic meaning, linked to topical events. Such is the case of the Polar Bear vase, see catalog note on lot 86 in this sale.

This new technology was a spectacular attempt to modernize the Gallé product line, by borrowing a popular technique from contemporary industrial glass production, and respecting the motifs and style associated with the Gallé name. Despite the initiative to produce more at a more rapid pace, the high purchase price of the cast-iron mold and the relatively small range of designs that took advantage of this new technique, were probably the main factors restricting the production of the "relief" pieces. Another was the rather short period through which the technique was exploited, less than six years, from late 1925-1930.

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