ART DIRECTIVES Client Case Study C
Appraisal Reveals Surprising Value of Lalique Mask
By Claire Goldenberg and Rochelle Eisenberg
Arts & Antiques Fall 1999
The piece that our client thought had low value actually was authentic and had considerable value.
As appraisers we often hear, “That, oh, that’s nothing.” The truth is, there is often great value in items we least expect. Here is such an item. The Lalique frosted glass in relief is titled “Masque de Femme.” This 13 x 13-inch square-shaped piece has hair on the perimeter in a fish design, a popular motif during the Art Nouveau period. It is unusual to Lalique in that the entire plaque is the mask. It was designed in 1935 by Rene Lalique, who began his career as a designer and maker of fine jewelry. He later became known for his wonderful perfume bottles and opened his own glassworks in 1909. By the 1930s, when this piece was first made, Rene Lalique was world renowned as the most important designer of his time, and the most successful glassmaker of the 20th century.
Rene Lalique was born in 1860 and died in 1945. Pieces made before his death were marked “R. Lalique.” Marc Lalique, Rene’s son, re-started his father’s company in 1946 and the “R” was deleted, despite the fact that original molds were still being used. A few pre-war designs continued in production and some retained their original trademark forms. According to Christopher Vane Percy in “The Glass of Lalique a Collector’s Guide,” “Prewar designs produced during 1946 tend to be white and crisp in appearance and to lack some of the warmth and subtlety associated with Lalique production in the 30s. None have been produced in opalescent or colored glass, enameling is rare, and hand-staining has ceased altogether.”
Except for commissions, every item manufactured by the Lalique factories bore a Lalique trademark. There are at least 11 variations of the Lalique trademark. All are either etched or molded. Sometimes an item would have a script added and therefore bears two styles of trademark. The Glass of Lalique states that “very rarely did Rene Lalique sign his pieces, and only then by scratching his name into the wax immediately before casting.” A rare piece was signed by Marc Lalique or Marie-Claude, the granddaughter of Rene Lalique.
For nearly 40 years, much of Lalique’s glass was produced in great quantities; therefore, modern collectors keep finding different forms, designs and colors.
There were imitators of Lalique, including Sabino, Eteling, Genet et Michon and Andre Hunebell. Their glass pieces all have a more or less similar style and quality. Also fraudulent pieces are beginning to surface. Fraudulent pieces show seams or bubbles and lack the quality of the satin or clear finish of a true Lalique piece.
There is a very strong secondary market for Lalique designs. Lalique glass recently sold at auction for up to 80 percent of retail value, a very high percentage for resale.
While doing research for this article we learned that Masque de Femme was valued at $10,000 until Sept. 1, 1999, when the retail price became $8,080. The replacement value for insurance of Lalique glass may therefore fluctuate depending on the price in France, where the Lalique home office is located.
The piece that our client thought was “nothing” turned out to be really something—a worldwide collectible of significant value!
Claire Goldenberg is an appraisal associate at ART DIRECTIVES Inc. which is located in Blue Bell, PA. Rochelle Eisenberg is the President of ART DIRECTIVES and an accredited senior appraiser with the American Society of Appraisers.
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