Notice Regarding the Sale of Material from Endangered Species.
Prospective purchasers are advised that several countries prohibit the importation of property containing materials from endangered species, including but not limited to coral, ivory and tortoiseshell. Accordingly, prospective purchasers should familiarize themselves with relevant customs regulations prior to bidding if they intend to import this lot into another country
René Lalique, the creative father of the Art Nouveau movement, was born in 1860 in Ay, France. His childhood was spent surrounded by the lush beauty of the woods of Champagne and he painted and drew wildlife from an early age. At age 16, his father died, and Lalique was forced to earn a living. He apprenticed to the jeweler Louis Aucoc because his mother had heard that the life of a jeweler was not too straining. After two years, his studies led him to London, where he attended Sydenham College, a progressive arts institute associated with the Arts & Crafts movement. It was at Sydenham that Lalique studied English literature and poetry. Themes from romantic and tragic literature inspired many of his most celebrated works.
After his schooling in England, Lalique returned to Paris and continued his studies in sculpture and drawing while working for various jewelers. It was at this time that he began working for famous and established firms such as Cartier, Boucheron and Vever (lot 397). The majority of the pieces that he created during this period, detailed in Henrí Vever's "French Jewelry of the Nineteenth Century", were in the same vein as other jewelry of the time. The popular court style often depicted simple, diamond-set jewels in stylistic blooming flowers. It was common practice to set diamonds upon a tiny spring, causing the gems to sparkle and reflect light as they bounced. These early diamond and gem-set pendants, brooches and devant-de-corsages were works that furthered his experience with precious stones and metal and set the stage for his later, more sculptural pieces.
In 1885, Lalique took over the Place Gaillon Workshops and began early experiments with glass and later, horn (lots 144, 399, 404, 405). He steered away from the use of diamonds and other traditional gems and chose instead to utilize semi-precious stones such as opal, citrine and ivory. He perfected his masterful use of enamel, especially plique-à-jour, the most difficult and dramatic medium (lots 388, 391, 395, 402).
In realizing the greatest flights of his imagination, Lalique broke with the traditional jewelry establishment. Early critics were shocked at his use of serpents poised to strike, maenads in Bacchic frenzy, nude maidens, somber nuns and darting fish (lots 390, 392, 396, 401). At first, retailers and critics called his work "a commercial risk". However, by the Exposition Universalle in 1900, Lalique had become the most sought after jeweler in Paris. Sarah Bernhardt, Madame Meurlot-Chollet and Alice Roosevelt, President Roosevelt's fashionable daughter, purchased and commissioned pieces from him. Lalique was called a "Master of French Jewelry" and won the rosette of the Légion d'Honneur. Lalique's fabulous presentation, shown adjacent to his former employer, Henrí Vever, was a success. Interestingly, both Lalique and Vever were awarded with Grand Prix for the Exposition Universelle of 1900.
Lalique often borrowed from the Japanese style in his works. His tender, often asymmetrical, rendering of nature evoked the simplicity of Japanese design. Other notable influences were the sculptor Auguste Rodin (lot 386) and the Gustav Klimt (lot 387). Lalique was able to blend these influences into intense and moody jewels, illustrating a fall sunset (lot 404), a pensive Mercury (lot 400), or women emerging from a pool of ivory water (lot 393).
In 1905, Lalique opened a retail shop next to Coty on 24 Place Vendome and began designing perfume bottles for many Parisian perfumeries. His workshop shifted to the commercial production of vases, clocks and light fixtures. Around 1910, a flood of bad Art Nouveau imitations disillusioned Lalique about jewelry. The mass-produced pieces lost the detailed and sensuous quality that Lalique had perfected. He stopped creating jewels and turned to glass manufacturing as a second career.
René Lalique was an exceptional artisan, craftsman and innovator. Although he became widely known for his glass pieces, critics often note that his jewels displayed his greatest mastery. The course of jewelry design shifted drastically because of this innovator: jewelers were introduced to organic materials such as horn and ivory; glass was freely mixed with precious and semi-precious gemstones. Most importantly, Lalique restored creative freedom in jewelry design. His influence extended upon other French jewelers at the turn of the century, the American, Louis Comfort Tiffany and even the jewelry of the Art Deco movement. His legacy survives to this day, not just with inspiration of design, but with the philosophy that it is exciting not to conform.