Car Mascot Designer Lalique Has Collectors Glowing
René Jules Lalique may be known amongst the inner circles of the art collector but its his contribution to the automotive community that we are focusing on today. René was a French glass designer known for his creations of glass art, perfume bottles, vases, jewelery, chandeliers, clocks, and exquisite automobile mascots (or hood ornaments). In a lifetime that spanned between the Civil War and World War II, Lalique’s legacy is built on two foundations: jewelry and glass.
Lalique’s early life was spent learning the methods of design and art. In 1872, when he was twelve, he entered the Collège Turgot where he started drawing and sketching. While attending college, he managed to squeeze in evening classes at the Ecole des arts décoratifs. He later would find work there and honed his skills for two additional years. Subsequently, he spent two years at the Crystal Palace School of Art in Sydenham, London. It was here his skills for graphic design were improved, and his unique approach to art was further developed.
When he returned from England, he worked as a freelance artist, designing pieces of jewelery for French jewelers Cartier, Boucheron, and various others. In 1885, he opened his own business where he designed and produced his own jewellery, glass and art pieces. By 1890, Lalique was recognized as one of France’s foremost Art Nouveau jewellery designers; creating innovative pieces for Samuel Bing’s new Paris shop, Maison de l’Art Nouveau.
In the 1920s, he became even more famous for his work in Art Deco style. He was responsible for the walls of lighted glass and elegant coloured glass columns which filled the dining room and “grand salon” of the SS Normandie. One of his most cherished pieces was St. Matthew’s Church at Millbrook in Jersey (Lalique’s Glass Church) where he created the interior fittings, cross, screens, and reredos.
Rene Lalique’s car mascot creations are legendary to this day, and can sell for well over $200,000 for the rarest of his works. Lalique’s car mascots (hood ornaments) are the most sought after of all car mascots, not just by collectors of R.Lalique, but also by general glass collectors and antique car collectors.
The most expensive and bespoke cars of his day were adorned with one of his mascots. Even today his mascots can be found on the hoods of some of the greatest concours cars of the early 20th century.
Some collectors, like the Nethercutt Collection in Sylmar, California, have entire walls dedicated to automotive mascots. Visitors can expect to find their Lalique collection prominently displayed in a secure case or on their most prized automobiles.
Lalique designed the bases of the mascots to support the heavy glass and even developed special wiring and lighting inside the base so the ornament could be lit up with modular color filters. This gave the mascot a unique glow in any of its colors while the car was in motion. Mascot owners could also get a device that would cause the light to shine brighter as the car went faster!
One of the first René Lalique Car Mascots was the Cinq Chevaux (Five Horses). It was designed for Citroën and fitted to his 1925 5CV. From 1925 through the ensuing six years, 28 more Lalique Car Mascots would be produced, including one non-commercial René Lalique Car Mascot named Levrier that was made for the the Prince of Wales.
In addition to these 28 (or 29, if you want to get technical) Lalique Mascots, the 1920 Statuette Model Sirene (Small Mermaid) was also sold as a Car Mascot, bringing the upping the total to 30 mascots. Many collectors also consider the 1920 Lalique Statuette Naiade (Large Mermaid) to be a Car Mascot as well, but there is no known evidence verifying it was sold as such. This would make the grand total 31 René Lalique Car Mascots of which 30 were commercial models.
The most rare and attractive of Lalique’s Mascots command a great amount of attention when they appear for sale at auction. The Vitesse Mascot (naked woman), appeared in a regional auction house in the UK in 2009. It attracted worldwide interest with several bidders competing with bidders in the auction room, when the hammer came down it sold for approximately $29,000. That’s for a single mascot!
In November 2011 a world record price for an R. Lalique Car Mascot at auction was achieved at a small auction house in Pennsylvania. A rare Renard Car Mascot appeared just outside of Philadelphia, where it sold for $204,750. In March 2012, the photos shown here were apart of a complete (30+1) R. Lalique Mascot collection at an RM Auction at Amelia Island. The complete set sold for $805,000!
Photography by Michael Furman © Courtesy of RM Auctions