Lalique Automotive Mascots
In the first three decades of the 20th century, the motorcar evolved from a belching, crude horseless carriage into an elegant and often novel plaything of the rich and stylish, as well as being a mode of transportation for the average motorist.
In this, the Golden Age of Motoring, such grand marques as Delage, Bugatti, Rolls-Royce, Packard, Hispano Suiza, Isotta Fraschini, Bentley, Pierce-Arrow and others, came upon the scene and found welcome receptions among the well-to-do. Style, chic and novelty were the order of the day for the upper tiers of Western society, and this applied to automobiles as well, with custom coach work and distinctive radiator cap emblems being fairly common on the more expensive marques. Aftermarket "automotive mascots," or sculpted radiator caps, were one of the favorite adornments for high-end automobiles.
When one speaks of automotive mascots, the name Rene Lalique has to come up early in the conversation, as he is universally acknowledged as the greatest French jeweler and glass designer of the late 19th/early 20th century. A proponent of original glass designs of the Art Noveau and Art Deco Periods, Lalique expanded his talents to creating distinctive automotive mascots.
In 1925, he designed and produced his first glass automotive mascot for the French Citroen company. This mascot, Cinq Chevaus (5 Horses), was used on their 5CV model. From there Lalique created and produced 28 other mascots (actually 29, since there were two variations on one of the mascots - Longchamps, a single mane and a double-mane version). Today, original Lalique automotive mascots command many thousands of dollars. All of them were made from very high quality glass, and provisions were made for them to be illuminated by using special metal mounts.
The Breves Gallery of Knighsbridge, England, manufactured the mounts for the Lalique mascots in two basic sizes: larger bases to fit the bigger mascots and a smaller version to fit the more diminutive pieces. The full Breves Gallery Knighsbridge address was always impressed on the outside of the illuminated base types.
Although he is the best known creator, Rene Lalique was not alone in the field of glass mascot design. His competitors included Red-Ashay and Warren-Kessler, both of Great Britain; Ernest Marius Sabino of Paris; and the Corning Glass Co. of New York.
Several of the Lalique mascots have interesting little side stories of their own. The rarest production mascot is certainly Renard (The Fox) with only a few known examples surviving. The most famous and largest is the Victoire (Spirit of the Wind), a classic example of Art Deco styling, that was used in the 1928 Paris Motor Salon, mounted on a Minerva (the owner of this Lalique collection also owns a Minerva). At 10" long, it would easily grace the hood of even the largest limousine of the day. The most infamous mascot is certainly the Tï¿½te D'Aigle (Eagle's Head), because it was favored by and often fitted to Nazi officers' staff and personal cars during WWII.
The best design for illumination is the Grande Libellule (Large Dragonfly), since the veining of the wings stands out particularly well when used with a Breves mount and colored filter. For lovers of the female form, two fine models were designed, Chrysis and Vitesse. Vitesse is a sensuous nude leaning forward in the wind, symbolizing speed, coming to best effect in blue opalescent glass. Chrysis is a backward leaning nude designed in sensuous abandon, her fingers entwined in her streaming hair.
As with many valuable objects, Lalique mascots have been copied and fakes have been found. Since original prewar Lalique mascots sell for thousands and even hundreds of thousands of dollars, purchasing one without the imprimatur of an expert to establish its authenticity is foolish. With that thought in mind, however, if you enter the Lalique marketplace you should proceed with caution, but also be aware that owning an original Rene Lalique automotive mascot - even the humblest example - is a part of art and automotive history and represents the style and grandeur of The Golden Age of Motoring.
The thirty Lalique mascots shown here are owned by Ele Chesney, an avid vintage automotive collector with an outstanding stable that includes a 1924 Minerva, a 1934 Packard, several Reos, the 1954 Plymouth Belmont concept car and many other pristine vintage autos.
Model Created: December 9, 1930
Catalog Number: 1182
Height: 8.25 inches
Color Variations: Clear glass only
Model Created: March 1, 1928
Catalog Number: 1142
Height: 5.25 inchesv Color Variations: clear glass and amethyst-tinted examples can be found
Model Created: March 14, 1928
Catalog Number: 1141
Height: 8 inches
Color Variations: Clear and amethyst tinted glass