The naturalism of Art Nouveau
The master of Art Nouveau designed this prestigious lamp, marking the start of the fruitful collaboration between the Daum glassworks and the Majorelle firm in 1903.
Louis Majorelle (1859-1926) and Daum in Nancy, Nénuphar (Water Lily) table lamp with gilded bronze base, trefoil corolla shade in acid-etched and cut glass, signed Daum on the shade and l.Majorelle on the base, h. 69 cm.
When Art Nouveau emerged in the late 19th century, the goal was simple: to revitalize the arts by jettisoning references to 18th-century canons. Middle Eastern and Asian arts influenced designers, but they based their revolutionary motifs mainly on nature. Flowers and foliage quickly overran furniture, ceramics and objets d’art, whose lines became sinuous. Sometimes, the work’s very shape simulates nature, as in this outstanding Nénuphar (Water Lily) table lamp. The orange-yellow glass shade mimics a trefoil corolla, the acid-etched and chiseled decoration detailing each leaf down to the smallest rib, while the gilded bronze base features three branches topped with leaves inhabited by three frogs. This last detail adds to the piece’s charm: the batrachians are missing from the only other known copy, which is in the Orsay Museum in Paris. Daum and Majorelle introduced this model at the 1903 decorative arts show.
Antonin Daum quickly understood the need to vary his output and offer a complete, diversified range of these lamps. He readily worked with other artists in various fields, including, of course, Louis Majorelle. In 1890 Majorelle opened his bronze, copper and wrought-iron workshop. By the time he designed this lamp’s base, its overall shape and even its lighting, he had clearly reached the pinnacle of his artistry.