The signature A Falize is that of André Falize, the eldest and most gifted of the three Falize brothers, who took over the family business from their father Lucien after his death in 1897. The makers' mark for Bapst and Falize reflects the partnership between Germain Bapst, descendant of the famous Crown jewellers and director of the highly esteemed house of the same name, and the firm of Falize, which at that time was run as a family business by Lucien Falize and his father Alexis. Although the Bapst Falize partnership was set up in 1880, their stamp was not registered until 1892, at the end of the association.
This magnificent centrepiece received great acclaim when it was exhibited by Falize Frères at the Paris 1900 exhibition. It was the first time that André, Pierre and Jean Falize had exhibited together under the new company name following their father's death, and La Vieille was amongst the most impressive of their exhibits. The jury noted '..the richness of the material(s) used and (the) beauty of the colour and workmanship..' and went on to describe it thus: '..(La Vieille) is a fish of our coast of Brittany whose shimmering colour dances with such brilliance in the clear water of the sea. It is in enamelled gold, represented full of life swimming through a shimmering wave cut from a piece of rock crystal of rare clarity; the delicately chased scales serve to support the enamel..Below the crystal a branch of seaweed; a frightened crab crouching amongst the fronds made of bronze-patinated silver completes this fascinating object evidently inspired by (the) Japanese, but of truly Parisian design and execution'. (Rapport du Jury International, op. cit.). The reference to Japan is telling. Lucien Falize had been inspired by both the art and craft of Japan throughout his life, and his sympathy with the Japanese passion for Nature marked him as a significant pre-cursor to the Art Nouveau movement. There can be no doubt that his son André was influenced by this passion, and it is not impossible that 'La Vieille' was in fact conceived by Lucien himself before his death and completed by Falize Frères for the 1900 Exhibition.
Despite its exposure and acclaim at the time of the exhibition, the piece remained with Falize Frères until 1931, when it was purchased by the family of the present owner for 27,000FF - the equivalent of approximately 60,000 in today's terms. (A copy of the detailed original invoice accompanies the lot). The piece has remained in private hands ever since and, although known from the contemporary photographs published in connection with the Paris 1900 Exhibition, was until recently untraced. It was identified by chance whilst being cleaned, and will now be included in the forthcoming volume on the work of the Falize family, in preparation by Katherine Purcell of Wartski.
We would like to acknowledge the extensive research of Ms. Purcell which has greatly assisted in the preparation of this catalogue entry.