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Car mascots – best in auto-bling, but watch for fakes

By Christopher Proudlove ©

The auto traders weren’t happy. One had paid £800 for his pitch, another £1,000 for a slightly bigger area, but the dealers in the area set aside for an autojumble had laid out just £200 apiece for arguably a more prominent position.

“That’s because they’re selling old stuff, collectables and that,” said the harassed organiser lady.

“But a lot of their stuff is brand new, the same kind of things we’re selling,” countered one trader as I eavesdropped on the conflict.

“Well yes, I know, but the new stuff isn’t selling,” was the organiser’s feeble response.

It didn’t go down well!

I wanted to butt in and suggest that the so-called antiques fair, also among the “attractions” in the “huge trade mall” in the centre of the field was another area where trading standards

officers could have had a field day.

Most of the stuff dated from around 1740 – that’s 20 minutes to six, probably the night before.

Instead, I thought better of it and went to check out the automobilia and autojumble for myself. I was looking for car mascots made from glass like the ones illustrated here. It was the same story.

Antiques? Amid the glitz and the glamour and the few genuine pieces for the connoisseur, the only antiques I saw were some of the cars and the folk driving them.

Yes, fake glass mascots have been known to turn up, but they are few and far between, compared to duff metal examples which are legion.

Glass mascots are among the most sought after and expensive of all car bling, the best being those made between 1915-30.

A number of companies produced them, including Marius-Ernest Sabino and Edmund Etling in France and Warren Kessler and Red-Ashay in this country.

The latter company was founded by Herman George Ascher, a Czech émigré who established his business in Manchester in the 1920s.

Coming from an area then known as Bohemia, which was renowned for the production of fancy glass products, Ascher was well placed to commission and import glass mascots, which he sold at motor car exhibitions in London and Edinburgh and from his premises in Chorlton on Medlock.

In all, Ascher built a range of 30 mascots, which he marketed under the name Red-Ashay. However, they were the preserve of only the well-heeled and the well-wheeled.

They retailed for between one to 10 guineas, the best being those which were illuminated by the car’s battery.

Even more novel were examples fitted with cylinders of coloured glass which caused the mascot to glow in shades of white light, red, orange, blue and green.

Some were controlled by hand, while others were driven by a small propeller fitted to the mascot mount.

As the car gathered speed, so the propeller turned faster, causing the coloured cylinder to spin, emitting a different colour as if did so.

Changes in taste and the nationalisation of Czech glass factories after the Second World War saw the decline and eventual death of Red-Ashay, the company closing in 1952, but the Nottingham-based company Crystal Art Glass continues to import and sell some of the mascots, produced by the original moulds used by the factory that made them for Herman Ascher. (So, beware new examples being passed off as antique).

Doyen of all glass mascot makers, however, was the master French glassmaker René Lalique (1860-1945) whose most famous mascot was commissioned by the Citroen (e with two dots over it) car company entitled Cinq Cheveaux (five horses) for the 5CV car first introduced in 1924.

Others include St Christopher, Archer, Coq Nain (cockerel), Perche (fish), Grand Libellule (dragonfly) Tete (first e acute) d’Aigle (eagle’s head), Sanglier (boar’s head), Chrysis (kneeling nude), Longchamps (horse’s head), Tete (first e circumflex) de Paon (peacock’s head) and Victoire (female head).

They were hugely popular. The eagle’s head, for example, which symbolised military might, was chosen by Hitler for his commanders’ Mercedes-Benz staff cars.

Rich British motorists bought them eagerly too, through Lalique’s London agents, the Breves Galleries in Knightsbridge.

Many were sold also as paperweights, but mascots are distinguishable by the heavy brass bases which allowed them to be mounted to car radiator or bonnet.

Lalique trained as a jewellery designer and maker but went on to spread his Art Nouveau and later Art Deco interpretations across most media including perfume bottles, porcelain, chandeliers and clocks.

Glass mascots also served to warn drivers of the temperature of the water in their car radiators which were often prone to boiling over.

These so-called moto-meters or calormeters comprised an illuminated glass tube sandwiched between discs of clear glass in a metal mount attached to the radiator cap.

When the temperature rose, the water level climbed inside the tube, giving the driver an ever-visible indication of engine temperature, even at night.

The glass and dials of these gauges were often engraved with decoration and they quickly sprouted wings and other adornment, although they were intended to be treated more seriously than the adornment of a car bonnet.

As a result, they are less expensive than most others and largely immune from the fakers.

Slideshow pictures show a handsome group of glass mascots sold by Warrington, Cheshire based vintage and veteran motor car auctioneers H&H Sales. The most valuable proved to be a Lalique St Christopher in perfect condition, which sold for £731. An amber version of Lalique’s Coc Nain sold for £315 despite a significant chip to the base, followed by a Red-Ashay style of a woman’s head, modelled after Lalique’s Victoire, which fetched £405. A rare Red-Ashay Pharaoh mascot sold for £191.

Tags: Art Deco · Automobilia · Glass · Lalique

7 responses so far ↓

  • 1 GG Weiner Hon.Gen.Sec. // Dec 28, 2009 at 4:29 pm

    Re: Above artical regarding Lalique car mascots…
    I’ve yet to see a photo proving that during the Third Reich ANY German car had the distingshon of having the Lalique Eagle car mascot mounted on its radiator cap!

    Maybe someone ‘out there’ has an archive photo to show this?

  • 2 THE LALIQUE CLUB... // Dec 8, 2010 at 4:40 pm

    From:
    The Lalique Mascot Collectors’ Club.

    If you log onto the club website at: http://www.brmmbrmm.com/lbcc.bb

    Then go to photos
    you will see the eagle mascot as mentioned above.
    A selection for sale at:
    http://www.laliquemascots.co.uk

  • 3 Christopher Proudlove // Dec 8, 2010 at 6:02 pm

    Thanks for the post Lalique Mascot Collectors’ Club. It’s good to see a mascot in the position for which it was intended.

  • 4 THE LALIQUE CLUB... // Jul 8, 2011 at 3:20 pm

    Wonderfull artical on Lalique. I’m working on a book at this time on ALL variants of his car mascots. An exhibition is to be held in London from 21st to 25th September, details on the club websit and from then organisors who are:
    http://www.penman-fairs.co.uk

  • 5 LALIQUE EXHIBITION... // Nov 7, 2011 at 11:54 am

    THE EXHIBITION IN LONDON WAS A RESOUNDING SUCCESS!

    Thanks for your kind interest Mr Proudlove…see the photos posted on the dedicated Facebook page search for ‘UNIQUE LALIQUE MASCOTS’ in the Fscebook search box…

  • 6 R. LALIQUE // May 4, 2012 at 2:58 pm

    Thanks Mr Proudlove, The title of this new book on Lalique car mascots has now been registered and is: ‘UNIQUE LALIQUE MASCOTS The Glass Radiator Hood Ornaments of Rene Jules Lalique’ – sub-title ‘Bouchons de Radiateurs par maitre verrier R. Lalique’, it is hoped to be in both in English and French and should be out by the end of the year. For more details please contact the Lalique Club: http://www.brmmbrmm.com/lbcc.bb

  • 7 GG Weiner Lalique Mascot Collectors' Club // Sep 17, 2013 at 12:55 pm

    Background history…

    Rene Claude Lalique was born in the small village of Ay opposite the Marne river in the Champagne region of Epernay in France on April 6th 1860. As a child he showed an interest in all aspects of art and sculpture.

    In 1862 his family decided to move to the outskirts of Paris to try to better themselves. In 1872, Rene started further education at the College Turgot where he studied drawing with Justin-Marie Lequien. At the tender age of 12 he won the highest award for design at the college.

    In 1876, after the death of his Father and at the age of 16, showing a keen interest in art and design he began an apprenticeship with the famous jeweller Louis Aucoc in Paris. He attended the College of Decorative Arts at the same time and won an award for drawing. In 1878 he moved to England to continue his studies at Sydenham College in North London for two years. He returned to Paris in 1880 and was employed as an illustrator of jewelery creating designs for some of the foremost perfume houses in that city. In 1884 Lalique’s drawings were accepted for display at The National Exhibition of Industrial Arts at The Louvre. In 1885 when he was just 25 and after studying sculpture and textile techniques he set up his first workshop in the Place Gaillon in Paris, taking over the Jules Destapes’ concern., then another workshop was rented in 1887. There he was designing jewellery using semi precious stones with ivory and later crystal glass with coloured enamels. In 1889, at a display at The Paris Universal Exhibition, the jewelery firms of Boucheron, Cartier and Never among others included collaborative works by him in their displays. By 1890 he acquired new more extensive premises at Rue Therese and was by now employing around 30 staff. He became a very close friend of the shop foreman, Ms.Briancon of whom he worked very closely with.

    By the early 1890′s glass became prominent in Lalique’s jewelery, and in 1893 he won second prize in a competition set up by the Union Centrale des Arts Decoratives in Paris.

    His work was one of the main attractions of the Paris International Exhibition at the turn of the century. Gaining more & more appreciation, he was appointed Chevalier de la Legion d’Honneur at the age of 36.

    Lalique’s beautiful jewellery soon gained notoriety with many rich personalities of the day, including stars of stage & screen. Sarah Bernhardt took a great interest in his designs and commissioned many pieces. (As now with the likes of Madonna and actresses as Kim Cattrall and Liza Minnelli who ordered 300 of their cut crystal glass tumblers on her 2002 wedding day).

    Lalique opened his first retail shop in 1905 in the Place Gaillon in Paris.

    The year 1906 brought Lalique to the attention of Cote who commissioned designs for their perfume bottles. The demand for them was so high that Lalique looked for larger premises and ended up right next door to the Cote concern in the Place Vendome in the centre of Paris!

    Footnote: Some very interesting perfume bottle labels designed by Rene Lalique were brought to our attention that are kept in the archives library of The National Motor Museum at Beaulieu. These show the very decorative Art Nouveau period designs typical of this time created by the fertile mind of Rene. Photocopies can be scanned and e-mailed to any interested party.

    Also in 1906 Vincenzo Florio commissioned him to design the award trophies for the famous Targa Florio endurance races. The designs of which were of particularly fine decoration with a flock of swallows and flowers picked out in coloured vitreous enamels with a base relief gilt racing car rushing by. This one piece cost the princely sum of 5,000 gold Francs, or some £20,000 in today’s money!

    Lalique also designed the medals for the competitors, these were to be awarded in gold for the winner, silver for the runner-up and bronze for the third winning car. They depict a contemporary period racing car with the driver & riding mechanic racing through the Sicilian mountains with the legend ‘Targa Vincenzo Florio 1906′ within the casting at the base. These medals are extremely rare as due to the poor conditions of the course and due to the fact that there was a dock strike in Sicily meaning that only 10 cars were shipped over for the race out of the 23 entered! The winner of the race was Alessandro Magno an Italian driver followed by fellow Italian Ettore Graziani both driving Italia’s. Note: Both the silver & bronze medals were on display at the ‘Unique Lalique Mascots’ exhibition held in London from 21st to 25th September, 2011.

    Tragedy struck Rene and his family when in 1909 his beloved wife Augustine Alice Lalique-Ledru died.

    Lalique continued to experiment with glass manufacturing techniques and produced enough wares to display at a special exhibition in 1911. During the beginning of the first world war Lalique closed his factory. Post-war he built a new factory at the site of Wingen-sur-Moder, in the Alsace region and was producing glass from 1921…and continues there today!

    In 1925 his works were the star attraction that year in Paris at the “Exposition Internationale des Arts Decoratifs et Industriels Modernes” (the term ‘Art Deco’ for short, is now commonly given to this period). His fabulous standing woman forming the central display in a working fountain ‘La Source de la Fontaine’, no doubt helped to elevate him to the rank of Commander of the Legion d’Honneur. By the 1930′s the company had grown so large that 600 employees worked on Lalique products that were now being sold around the world.

    Lalique was and is known for producing an extensive range of jewellery, watches, cut glass and moulded chrystal glass decanters, vases, bowls, animals, birds and special commissions for famous department stores around the world., ocean liners including the incredible Art Deco interior of the SS Normandie and exclusive trains which include the Pullman carriages of the famous Orient Express. Mention must also be made of a ‘complete’ church interior on the Isle of Jersey in the British Channel Islands.

    Bouchons de Radiateurs…

    Where we are concerned here are the car mascots of which a great demand was created for the rich & famous of the inter-war era, known as the Art Deco period.

    These adorned the hoods and radiator caps of the most prestigious marques from all over the world at that time. An original edition of 28 different car mascots were produced which included stylized animals, birds and other creatures.,some adapted from the paperweight ornaments being produced at the time and then re-introduced and adapted to fit onto the special metal mounts made and marketed by the Breves Galleries in Londons’ Mayfair (this was the one & only British retail outlet allowed to promote and sell them). To quote from their 1928 catalogue “The Motor Mascots designed by Lalique achieve a rare combination of beauty and distinction. They are moulded from a special glass, untarnishable and almost unbreakable. At night, their charm is enhanced by concealed illumination in soft colours…Among all the famous artists in glass, there has never been such a consummate master as Rene Lalique. For Lalique not only possesses a rich imagination and an unerring sense of form – he has an extraordinary faculty for exploiting the colour and texture of the glass itself. His versatility is astonishing. He can be delicate, fantastic, bizarre or vigorous, yet his style always harmonises with the subject, and the originality of the true artist marks all his work”.

    The first mascots were adapted from his two Mermaid paperweights shown in his 1920 catalogue and were not intended for any specific make of vehicle, however Rene was inspired by the comet shooting star illumination on the top of the Eiffel Tower during the 1925 Paris Exposition, what he came up with was the superb rendition of the Comete Etoile Filante (shooting star) introduced to the market on the 24th August 1925.

    Rene was approached by Andre Citroen to produce a suitable car mascot to adorn their new 5CV., what Rene came up with next was the classic 5 prancing horses (staggered in a row) that was very appropriate for the car of the same name! This was introduced onto the market on the 26th August 1925…

    Soon the rich & famous were seeking-out Lalique’s car mascots to adorn their radiator caps on such exotic makes as Rolls-Royce, Bentley, Bugatti, Lagonda, Napier, Invicta, Railton, Mercedes, Voisin, Isotta Fraschini, Hispano-Suiza, Delahaye, Delage, Duesenberg & Cord etc. Today you rarely see them fitted onto the above makes, the exception being at classic car events and Concours d’Elegance., such as the regular prestigious Summer events at the Louis Vuitton Hurlingham club and Goodwood Cartier Style et’Luxe etc. No doubt they can also be seen at overseas events as Pebble Beach in the USA*.

    On May 5th, 1945 Rene died at the age of 85., he is buried in Le Petre Lachaise cemetary in Paris. His son Marc took over untill his death in 1977, and eventualy his daughter Marie-Claude Lalique Dedouvre assumed control untill she eventualy sold her interest in the company and retired in the USA in 1994, she died on April 14, 2003 at the age of 67., she is buried in Fort Myers, Florida. The company continued as a family run business as Lalique-Haviland until it was taken over in 2008 by the Swiss concern of Art et Fragrance.

    to this day. The few car mascot designs of today are now marketed again as paperweights/presse-papiers decorative ornaments.

    We are privaliged to be able to offer the connoisseur collector a unique opportunity to purchase these beautifull works of art as adornment and also a sure-fire investment portfolio for you now and in the future…

    Footnote:

    On Rene Laliques death many praises and eulogies were heeped upon him, however one stands out and is memorable because it came from his life long patron & friend, the Armenian oil billionaire Calouste Gulbenkian, who said “He ranks among the greatest figures in the history of art of all time”. This was praise indeed by a connoissseur collector of such great artists as Gainsborough, Rembrandt, Rodin and many others.

    The Lalique connection…

    After many years of study Mr. Geoffrey George Weiner** has become an expert on all things ‘automotive’, specialising in classic car memorabilia including car badges and motoring mascots. After attending the Paris Retromobile show in early 2003 and seeing a wonderfull and unique (private collection) display of Lalique car mascots all in glass cabinets lined up in the main hall., a desicion was made to make an appointment with Lalique at their Paris HQ. Seeing that they said that the early car mascots were almost un-obtainable, this set the challenge & quest…

    Taking a keen interest in the work of the Lalique family of master craftsman, starting with Rene, continuing with son Marc and ending with his grandaughter Marie-Claude and of course still continuing to this day…

    The whole range of car mascots that they produced in glass and now in chrystal and are still producing, using the same methods today. The range is greatly reduced., as for example Hirondelle/Swallow. Quoting from a company press release of 2008: “It was the 10th February 1928 that Rene Lalique creates the car mascot Hirondelle. Lalique car mascots were used as radiator caps to adorn cars at any time as they were lit at night. The Swallow representing freedom and speed and was one of his favourite birds as he coud see them migrating when he was a child living in the French countryside of Champagne. He also did a vase bearing the name ‘Swallows’ and transfomed the car mascot into book-ends in 1937. After eighty years the making of his piece comes to an end which renders it very collectable”.

    At Lalique however inside knowledge was gained at a special and exclusive private viewing for the pre-Chelsea Flower Show display in 2004 at a Champagne reception attended by many of Lalique’s Paris HQ excecutives. Since then the Tete d’Paon/Peacocks Head along with Grand Libellule/Large Dragonfly, Vitesse, Victoire and Longchamp ‘B’ have been re-introduced (as presse-papier/paperweights), not only in clear glass but also in several coloured versions! We were informed of this and more besides in the pipeline…

    *Talking about the USA, while on a trip to the Hershey swopmeet in Pennsylvania we came accross many reproductions of Lalique’s car mascots. To the expert eye there is nothing to worry about as one would soon see faults and moulding marks, re-finishing etc. on them., besides which inferior glass is used as it would be impossible to re-create the quality of a ‘genuine’ Lalique piece nowdays as to the costing of these! Most are produced in Eastern Europe. Buyer beware as if any have spurious signiatures on them, as world copywrite laws cover them and customs officers have the right of confiscation and prosecution!

    Modern Lalique is signed (after inspection and acceptance of the piece) using an etching tool. The signiature in script should read ‘Lalique France’ with a circuled ‘r’ in beween, meaning registered.

    If you are concerned or need expert advice please contact us or any reputable specialists or auction house.

    **Mr. G.G. Weiner is a consultant on automobilia for the Miller’s Collectables Handbook 2010-2013 and on-going (featuring many Lalique car mascots, RR & Bentley mascots and others). He is also a consultant & valuer of automobilia for several well known UK & overseas auction houses and an on-line auction house. He is working on a reference book himself due to be published in the new year on Unique Lalique Mascots.

    Another important ‘highpoint’ for his portfolio was appoinment as consultant in the very prestigious Rolls-Royce Centenary celebrations in Montreaux, Switzerland, where a Rolls-Royce presentation car mascot commissioned by RR from Lalique was auctioned for a world record price!

    Ref: The Sir Henry Royce Memorial Foundation & The Rolls-Royce Owners’ Club, sponsored by Horus Sur Mesure and Bullionaer at Le Montreaux Palace Hotel function & Auction hosted by Dr. Neugebauer on 13/2/10.

    For 2011 a very special exhibition was held in London featuring most of the mascot output. This was organised & presented by Penman Fine Art & Antiques Fairs in association with the Lalique Mascot Collectors’ Club and held from 21st to 25th September at Chelsea Old Town Hall, Kings Road, London SE3 5EE incorporating a special bubbly reception evening by r.s.v.p. which was a resounding success!

    Note: It was very appropiate to hold this exhibition in London in celebration of Rene Jules Lalique’s 151st anniversary of his birth as he studied here in his formative years. A full review of this retrospective is posted on the Lalique Mascot Collectors’ Club website at: http://www.brmmbrmm.com/lbcc.bb

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