The placement of a discreet brand logo atop one’s car hood is essentially a given nowadays, but automobiles did not originally roll out of the shop with these understated ornaments. French glass artist Rene Lalique was one of the pioneers of this art form in the 1920s. He suggested that that the traditional thermometer atop the hood monitoring water temperature in the days before blower fans were developed could be a work of beauty rather than mere functionality. For those looking to take a trip back to a more glamorous time, 30 of Lalique’s hood ornaments will be auctioned off this Saturday through RM Auctions at Amelia Island in Florida. (Hat tip to an article in The New York Times Sunday “Automobiles” section)
From its creation in the 1880s to present day, Lalique Glass has been known for the intricacy and detail of each design. In his heyday, Lalique employed over 600 glass artists to ensure that every perfume bottle, household object, and jewelry item that left his factories received a “personalized” touch with highlight polishing, frosting, and glazing. Most of his work was signed with “R. Lalique, France.”
Lalique’s car mascots are world-renowned not only for what has become his trademark intricacy and execution, but for innovation. Lalique developed the novel idea, for instance, to illuminate the hood ornaments by placing a light bulb underneath the ornament’s base; he created filters to place between the bulb and base to allow for changing colors.
Few Lalique motor mascots survive today. Constant bombardment by wind pressures, road debris, and screeching halts, as well as internal heat from the light bulb, damaged these ornaments quite rapidly. Most did not allow them to survive for more than a few years.
The best known of all Lalique’s hood ornaments is Victoire (translated as spirit of the wind), a bust of a human with her hair whipping out behind her. Also among the most prized of the Lalique mascots are the two nude women, Vitesse (speed) and Chrysis (kneeling nude; pictured right), known for their exquisite details and exotic qualities. The Grande Libellue (large dragonfly), with its opened and veined wings, is also greatly lauded, for it offered the best illumination when lit from the base (pictured above).
It is unknown precisely how many Lalique hood ornaments were manufactured, but most are an incredibly rare find today. The rarest of all the designs, with perhaps only seven in existence, is the Renard (fox). Due to their thicker bases and sturdier designs, the Faucon (falcon), Tête Daigle (eagle’s head), Sanglier (boar) and the Coq Nain (bantam cock) were more commonly produced.
IF YOU GO:“The Lalique Mascot Collection of Ele Chesney” March 10th, 2012 RM Auctions at Amelia Island, Florida Telephone: +1-954-566-2209 Website: http://www.rmauctions.com/FeatureCars.cfm?SaleCode=AM12&CarID=r243#
— Anna Tatelman