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The Art of Gallé

Nicholas M. Dawes
From the Print Edition:
cigar case, Summer 93

(continued from page 1)

"There are hundreds of collections of GaIIé," notes Barbara Deisroth, "relatively few of which are in Europe, although European collections are rich in artistic pieces." Auctioneers and the few specialist dealers in the United States, Europe and Japan who handle GaIIé agree that before 1988, virtually all collectors of GaIIé were American. Deisroth observes that between 1988 and 1991, the vast majority of GaIIé which appeared on the market was purchased by Japanese collectors or their representatives, many of whom concentrated on artistic pieces.

The collections formed in Japan in the heady years of the late 1980s were as speculative as they were spectacular. "Some pieces have dropped off as much as fifty percent over the last three years," says Deisroth.

"The decline in Japanese interest in GaIIé since 1991 is not entirely discouraging," continues Deisroth, who is optimistic about the activity of new collectors entering the market, which has clearly peaked and is therefore peppered with attractive prices. Almost all of the new buyers have been American (North and South), a trend evident at a Christie's New York sale in December of last year in which a good selection of decorative GaIIé was dispersed, including an Elephant vase which went to a collector from the United States at a very respectable $140,000.

Gallé's popularity has precipitated a wide variety of forgeries over the last decade. The best examples include imitations of marqueterie de verre made in France by glass artists of undeniable ability. These are convincing to all but the most educated eyes, and several have appeared in the sumptuous color illustrations of major auction catalogs, only to be discreetly withdrawn prior to going under the hammer. The vitreous nature of glass renders it easy to cut and polish on a wheel, and it is not uncommon to find authentic works by GaIIé which have been cleverly altered to disguise damage. Other deceptive alterations include the application of glass elements, such as dragonflies or similar japonaiseries, onto signed GaIIé vessels of plain origin. Forgeries such as these are much more difficult to detect than the conventional fake; typically an authentic Gallé-style piece made by an inferior glassworks has been given a GaIIé "signature." Some Art Nouveau marquetry furniture has been treated in this fashion.

The most common category of fakes, however, is the modern, simulated overlay glass vase or table lamp, which can be found at interior design stores of all types, including department stores. Most of these are made purely as decorative objects and not intended to deceive the buyer, but some feature simulated signatures and are commonly misrepresented by unscrupulous dealers or auctioneers.

It has been said that imitation is the greatest form of flattery, but it is unlikely that Emile GaIIé would have shared this sentiment. Undoubtedly, however, he would be impressed and flattered by the extraordinary attention and value given to his work from an international audience of admirers.

Nicholas M. Dawes is a New York antiques dealer and the author of Lalique Glass.

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