Émile Gallé, the great organiser

On 01 April 2018, by Caroline Legrand

This auction of furniture from a Norman château attests to Émile Gallé's ability to create furniture with all its decorative features, like future designers. 

Émile Gallé (1846-1904), "Snowdrop Lamp", tree-shaped wrought iron structure, lampshade with a three-petal snowdrop motif in heat-applied and shaped white and green glass, height: 71.5 cm, lampshade diameter: 16.5 cm. Signed.
Estimate: €15,000/20,000
After remaining together for over a century, the bedroom furniture set designed by Émile Gallé is now scattered. His friend, art critic Roger Marx, dubbed him "homo triplex": indeed, the Nancy master was a ceramicist, glass artist and cabinetmaker, not to mention a decorator and manufacturer. This auction of furniture from a Norman château attests to his ability to create furniture with all its decorative features, like future designers. Gallé and his client, Henri Gaston de Bousquet de Florian (1866-1944), exchanged several letters. A magistrate, Bousquet de Florian had discovered Gallé’s work during the famous Nancy School exhibition at the Marsan pavilion in Paris organised by the Union Centrale des Arts Décoratifs in March 1903. For his wedding, he decided to refurnish his bedroom in Avignon, which was later moved to Normandy and kept by his descendants until today. Bousquet de Florian had already been taken by the bed with "umbellifers and wetland irises", today estimated between €25,000 and €30,000, but Gallé suggested a vanity mirror and night tables based on the same model. A shrewd businessman, he also offered "electric lamps, free-standing or hanging from the ceiling, for reading in bed, if necessary". Aware of the aesthetic potential of coloured glass, in 1902, he launched a new product range, and his client indulged in an elegant snowdrop-shaped lamp (€15,000/20,000, see photo) and a pair of sconces in high-gloss cased glass with Abutilon decor and gilded metal branches (€4,000/6,000). The 20 pieces of furniture, glassware and decorative objects in this auction, symbols of Gallé’s wide-ranging talent, were amongst those he eventually delivered.
 
Émile Gallé (1846-1904), armoire with umbellifers in carved, moulded walnut and precious wood, wetland iris, dragonfly and butterfly marquetry, front
Émile Gallé (1846-1904), armoire with umbellifers in carved, moulded walnut and precious wood, wetland iris, dragonfly and butterfly marquetry, front carved with umbel motifs, signed, 240 x 120 x 54 cm.
Estimate: €20,000/30,000
 
Three questions for Valérie Thomas
Director of the Ecole de Nancy Museum


This auction acquaints us with Émile Gallé the decorator. Did he often design such large sets?
Gallé designed bedroom and dining room sets, such as the dining room furniture for Henry Vasnier acquired by the Reims Museum of Fine Arts in 2013. He also made the bedroom and dining room furniture with umbel motifs for Édouard Hannon’s Art Nouveau mansion in Brussels. The latter is now on display at the  Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris, while the bedroom is at the Ecole de Nancy Museum. Both were gifts from Hannon’s descendants. The bed is based on the same model as the one in the auction. Here, Gallé mixed several models: furniture with umbellifer motifs, a "sea holly" commode, nesting tables with crocus and wisteria motifs and a “snowdrop” lamp.
 
Émile Gallé (1846-1904), hemispherical hanging lamp, industrial prototype made of blue and brown cased glass on a yellow-mottled white background, eng
Émile Gallé (1846-1904), hemispherical hanging lamp, industrial prototype made of blue and brown cased glass on a yellow-mottled white background, engraved with an acid-cut cameo, original metal chain mount with butterfly motif, signed, height: 78 cm, diameter: 37 cm.
Estimate: €3,000/5,000

Was that common for him?
The Ecole de Nancy advocated unity of form, decorative theme or colour in a room’s design as well as furniture and interior decoration. Gallé was very meticulous about matching form and decor. I think that here the diversity of models must have been at the request of the client, who chose pieces and objects with different subjects.

In the collective consciousness, Émile Gallé is more a glass artist than a cabinetmaker. Did he favour one area over another?
No. Gallé was already a ceramicist and glassmaker when he decided to become a cabinetmaker in 1884. Frustrated that his furniture was not receiving the recognition he felt it deserved, around 1900 he asked some art critic friends of his to promote it. He even wrote an article entitled "Le Mobilier contemporain orné d'après la nature" (“Contemporary Furniture Decorated After Nature”). But more than anything else, he has always been deemed a great glass artist, even during the long stretch lasting until the 1960s when Art Nouveau was out of favour.
Thursday 05 April 2018 - 18:00 - Live
Salle 9 - Drouot-Richelieu - 9, rue Drouot - 75009
Daguerre