Rene Lalique’s Glass Mascots: 1920s Car Ornaments For Your Hood

Victoire Spirit of the Wind Date introduced: April 18, 1928

Victoire. Spirit of the Wind. April 18, 1928

 

What you need for your car is a mascot. And no mascot is more delightful, delicate and precious than a Lalique glass mascot.

 

1920:  Rene Lalique ( 1860-1945 ), artist, decorator, and French glassworker. RV-25537  (Photo by Albin Guillot/Roger Viollet/Getty Images)

1920: Rene Lalique ( 1860-1945 ), artist, decorator, and French glassworker. RV-25537 (Photo by Albin Guillot/Roger Viollet/Getty Images)

 

Created by René Claude Lalique (1860-1945) at his workshop in Wingen-sur-Moder, Alsace, these mascots are virtual pets that won’t scratch the paintwork or soil the upholstery.

 

Sanglier Boar Catalogue number: 1157 Signature identification: “R. Lalique France” molded in relief on the side between the front and rear legs Date introduced: October 3, 1929

Sanglier (Boar) October 3, 1929

 

Many of the creatures attached to the hoods of smarter cars offered the driver the experience of being on a hunt without the need for a horse. There you are sat in your wainscoted motorised cabin, looking forward at the angelic nude, perch or wild boar on the bonnet’s edge. For the royal classes, there was the added thrill of peeking at the quarry over the shoulder of a liveried yeoman at the wheel.

(Modern, less grand cars go for roadkill – flattened pictures of lions (Peugeot), Jaguars (Jaguar) and, most oddly, heraldic and largely mythical griffins (Vauxhall). All endangered species but not proud enough to stand on the bonnet, preferring to play dead).

 

October 1929:  Mascots, intended for use on the bonnets of cars, on display at the Motor Show, at Olympia in London.  (Photo by Fox Photos/Getty Images)

October 1929: Mascots, intended for use on the bonnets of cars, on display at the Motor Show, at Olympia in London. (Photo by Fox Photos/Getty Images)

 

G.G. Weiner’s has compiled the Lalique mascots into the book Unique Lalique Mascots. He tells Collectors’ Weekly:

“I’d been dealing in automobilia like car badges and brochures for quite a number of years when I came across a Lalique mascot in an exhibition at the Retromobile show in Paris. I made a lot of inquiries and went to the Lalique showroom in Paris on Rue Royale. They said that the mascots from the 1920s through 1930s were virtually impossible to get hold of. That set me off on a quest to try and find some. I sold off all of the automobilia I had to concentrate solely on Lalique.”

 

Naïade Large Mermaid Catalogue number: 832 Signature identification: “R. Lalique” molded in relief just above tail fin Date introduced: 1920

Naïade. Large Mermaid. 1920

 

Of the 30 mascots featured, two – mermaids Sirène and Naïade – were mantlepiece ornaments rejigged for cars in 1925.

 

1929:  A winged bullet mascot on the bonnet of politician David Lloyd George's car.  (Photo by Fox Photos/Getty Images)

1929: A winged bullet mascot on the bonnet of politician David Lloyd George’s car. (Photo by Fox Photos/Getty Images)

 

Ben Marks notes a factoid:

Not coincidentally, 1925 was also the year of the Paris Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratives et Industriels Modernes, from which we get the abbreviated term Art Deco.

 

28th April 1925:  The Galeries Lafayette pavilion at the Exposition Internationale des Arts Decoratifs Industriels et Modernes. The exhibition later gave it's name in abbreviated form to the Art Deco style.  (Photo by Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)

28th April 1925: The Galeries Lafayette pavilion at the Exposition Internationale des Arts Decoratifs Industriels et Modernes. The exhibition later gave it’s name in abbreviated form to the Art Deco style. (Photo by Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)

 

Lalique’s first three mascots were released in August of that year. One was the falcon, while another was inspired by the shooting stars on the side of the Eiffel Tower—the comets and their tails spelled out the word “Citröen” in what was then the largest illuminated advertisement in the world, so bright that aviator Charles Lindbergh used it as a beacon to guide the Spirit of St. Louis to Le Bourget Airport in 1927.

 

Comet - August 24, 1925

Comete – August 24, 1925

 

That mascot, the Comète Etoile Filante, was followed by another for the automaker, André Citröen, himself, whose new five-horsepower car, the 5CV, had just been introduced. Naturally, Lalique’s mascot for the 5CV resembled five horses in synchronized silhouette.

 

Cinq Chevaux (Five Horses, seen here on a Breves Galleries base) was made in 1925 for the new, five-horsepower Citröen 5CV.

Cinq Chevaux (Five Horses, seen here on a Breves Galleries base) was made in 1925 for the new, five-horsepower Citröen 5CV.

 

Weiner considers their rarity:

“Most dealers and collectors will tell you that Renard, the Fox, is the rarest mascot, followed by Hibou, the Owl. The Lalique family says that only a handful of these were produced, but I’ve been to the Lalique factory in Alsace and have seen the steel molds made for the mascots. They’re very large and must have cost thousands and thousands of pounds to produce. You wouldn’t construct a mold like that just to make, say, a half-dozen mascots. You’d make at least 50, I would think. So when the family says Lalique produced only a handful, I simply don’t believe it. But even so, of 50 mascots made in, say, 1931, a lot were probably lost, broken, destroyed, or whatever. Are there 20, or possibly 30, left? Nobody really knows.”

 

Some Lalique mascots had blue or milky hues. Hibou (Owl) was only made in clear or a frosted finish.

Lalique Hibou (Owl) was only made in clear or a frosted finish. January 27, 1931

 

In 2012, the New York Times spotted a full set of Lalique’s mascots for sale. They job lot went for $805,000. The newspaper adds more background:

Small metal sculptures began to replace the thermometers and safety valves topping automobile radiators in the early days of the motorcar. The most famous of these, the Rolls-Royce Spirit of Ecstasy, also known as the Flying Lady, arrived in 1911.

The Rolls Royce mascot endures to this day. It soon became part of popular culture.

 

1929:  Entertainer Elsa McFarlane stands on the bonnet of a Rolls Royce car, mimicking the Silver Lady figurine, in a production of 'The Co-Optimists', at the Vaudeville Theatre in London.  (Photo by Sasha/Getty Images)

1929: Entertainer Elsa McFarlane stands on the bonnet of a Rolls Royce car, mimicking the Silver Lady figurine, in a production of ‘The Co-Optimists’, at the Vaudeville Theatre in London. (Photo by Sasha/Getty Images)

 

circa 1925:  American film actress Corinne Griffith (1898 - 1979) as the 'Spirit of Ecstasy', the Rolls Royce emblem seen on the bonnet of their cars.  (Photo by General Photographic Agency/Getty Images)

circa 1925: American film actress Corinne Griffith (1898 – 1979) as the ‘Spirit of Ecstasy’, the Rolls Royce emblem seen on the bonnet of their cars. (Photo by General Photographic Agency/Getty Images)

 

Well before manufacturers offered their own hood ornaments, affluent owners personalized the family car — Bentley or Bugatti, Hispano-Suiza or Isotta-Fraschini — with favorite designs, usually of metal.

 

Logo of a Hispano-Suiza car  (Photo by Jose R. Platon/Cover/Getty Images)

Logo of a Hispano-Suiza car (Photo by Jose R. Platon/Cover/Getty Images)

 

Rudolph Valentino is looking at a snake on hood of car, 1925.

Rudolph Valentino is looking at a snake on hood of car, 1925.

 

René Lalique was already a famous jeweler when he began to shrewdly court wealthy automobile owners. In 1906 he created gift plates for the winners of the Targa Florio races. Soon he was adapting some of the imagery of his 250 perfume bottles and paperweights into mascots to sit above the radiator.

 

May 1929:  A mascot of an arrow on the bonnet of a Bentley car.  (Photo by Fred Morley/Fox Photos/Getty Images)

May 1929: A mascot of an arrow on the bonnet of a Bentley car. (Photo by Fred Morley/Fox Photos/Getty Images)

May 1929:  A seaplane mascot of a on the bonnet of an MG car.  (Photo by Fred Morley/Fox Photos/Getty Images)

May 1929: A seaplane mascot of a on the bonnet of an MG car. (Photo by Fred Morley/Fox Photos/Getty Images)

 

Lalique’s decision around 1910 to focus on glass provided the foundation for his luxury empire. “Lalique was an immensely talented artist with an entrepreneurial bent,” said David McFadden, chief curator at the Museum of Arts and Design in New York. “He realized that by taking a mundane material like glass, and adding artistry, he could reach a wider audience.”

 

Top: Chrysis (Nude Female), mounted on the radiator base of a Rolls-Royce Silver Wraith. Above: Renard (Fox) is considered one of the rarest Lalique mascots of the inter-war years.

Top: Chrysis (Nude Female), mounted on the radiator base of a Rolls-Royce Silver Wraith. Above: Renard (Fox) is considered one of the rarest Lalique mascots of the inter-war years.

 

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Hirondelle Swallow Catalogue number: 1143 Signature identification: “R. Lalique France” in molded relief on base Date introduced: February 10, 1928

Hirondelle (Swallow) February 10, 1928

Large Dragonfly Catalogue number: 1145 Signature identification: “R. Lalique France” in molded relief around base or R. Lalique France acid-etched in script along tail Date introduced: May 23, 1928

Large Dragonfly  May 23, 1928

Pintade Guinea Hen Catalogue number: 1164 Signature identification: “R. Lalique France” molded in relief around the lower edge of base Date introduced: September 28, 1929

Pintade (Guinea Hen) September 28, 1929

Coq Nain Bantam Cockerel Catalogue number: 1135 Signature identification: “R. Lalique France” molded in relief around base Date introduced: August 3, 1926

Coq Nain (Bantam Cockerel) August 3, 1926

 

Faucon Falcon Catalogue Number: 1124 Signature identification: “R. Lalique France” molded in relief between tail feathers and back claws Date introduced: August 5, 1925

Faucon (Falcon)  August 5, 1925

Tireur d’Arc The Archer Catalogue number: 1126 Signature identification: “R. Lalique France” marked via intaglio above the base, immediately beneath and between the left knee and right foot Date introduced: August 3, 1926

Tireur d’Arc (The Archer)  August 3, 1926

Tête de Coq Cockerel Catalogue number: 1137 Signature identification: “F. Lalique France” marked via intaglio at base on front of neck Date introduced: February 3, 1928

Tête de Coq (Cockerel) February 3, 1928

Tête Daigle Eagle’s Head Catalogue number: 1138 Signature identification: “R. Lalique France” molded in relief around lower edge of neck Date introduced: March 14, 1928

Tête Daigle (Eagle’s Head)  March 14, 1928

Sanglier Boar Catalogue number: 1157 Signature identification: “R. Lalique France” molded in relief on the side between the front and rear legs Date introduced: October 3, 1929

Sanglier (Boar): October 3, 1929

Chrysis Kneeling Nude Catalogue number: 1183 Signature identification: “R. Lalique France” stenciled on underside of base Date introduced: March 21, 1931

Chrysis Kneeling Nude: March 21, 1931

 Perche Perch Catalogue number: 1158 Signature identification: “R. Lalique France” molded in relief on side between lower fins Date introduced: April 20, 1929

Perche (Perch) April 20, 1929

 

For style and grace the lalique mascot cannot be topped. For usefulness, however, another kind of glass pointer is just the ticket:

 

A motorist with a soda syphon as a mascot on his car.    (Photo by E Dean/Getty Images)

A motorist with a soda syphon as a mascot on his car. (Photo by E Dean/Getty Images)