Rare set of Lalique hood ornaments go to auction

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This Lalique mascot hood ornaments is displayed at the Lalique museum. Image: w00kie/Flickr/CC BY

René Lalique’s elegant act-deco glass hood ornaments are considered the crown jewelry of collectible automotive accessories. Collectors will soon have a rare opportunity to bid on a complete set of 30 Lalique “mascots.”

Could fetch a million or more

RM Auctions is handling the sale, which will take place on March 10 in Florida as part of the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance automotive charity event. The collection is expected to fetch $800,000 to $1.2 million.

There are only three complete sets of Lalique mascots known to exist. To have one up for bid is the rarest of the rare. Alain Squindo of RM Auctions said:

“For a collector of automobile accessories these are the most desired of objects.”

Collection improved

The complete set of 30 glass figures will come with a lighted, climate-controlled display case. The collection was owned by auto collector Ele Chesney, who bought them 12 years ago for $550,000. Since then, she has replaced some less pristine figures with better examples, improving the collection’s value.

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Hood ornaments

Hood ornaments began appearing shortly after automobiles started to be mass produced. Owners would decorate or individualize their vehicles by topping the radiator cap with small metal figures. The most famous of all hood ornaments was the Rolls-Royce Spirit of Ecstasy — or the Flying Lady — dating from 1911.

René Lalique

René Lalique was born in 1860 and started designing jewelry in 1881. Lalique was also a shrewd businessman. He turned to glass as his favorite medium in about 1910. David McFadden, chief curator at the Museum of Arts and Design in New York, explained:

“Lalique was an immensely talented artist with an entrepreneurial bent. He realized that by taking a mundane material like glass and adding artistry, he could reach a wider audience.”

Lalique became well-known for his designer perfume bottles and paperweights. He first became associated with the automotive industry in 1906, when he was commissioned to create glass plates to be awarded to winners of the Targa Florio auto races. Shortly after that he began adapting his designs into hood ornaments, dubbed “mascots.” Later, he was commissioned by French industrialist André Citroën to design a radiator-topper for his 5CV car, popularly known as Cinq Chevaux, or five horses.

René Lalique passed away in 1945. The Lalique fine glass company he founded is still in operation today.

Depicted in the collection

The mascots in the collection depict an eclectic variety of subjects with seemingly no central theme beyond the elegance and style of the design. According to the New York Times:

“The swallow (is placed) by the eagle and the peacock by the greyhound. The archer abuts St. Christopher; mermaids swim beside frogs.”

Some of the mascots depict animals suggested by the fables of Jean de la Fontaine.  One of those is the “Renard” or fox, which is considered to be the rarest of all Lalique hood ornaments. Other mascots in the collection are Chrysis and Vitesse, two semi-nude female figures. Some of the mascots come fitted with internal lights.


New York Times
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