A stunning collection of 28 exquisite Lalique glass car mascots has found a new home in the UK.
The collection has been purchased by the National Motor Museum Trust with funding from Art Fund, National Heritage Memorial Fund, Arts Council England/V&A Purchase Grant Fund, as well as a private donor.
It becomes the first publicly owned collection of Lalique Car Mascots in the world and the National Motor Museum is the only museum where visitors can now see such a significant display outside of Japan.
Master glassmaker René Lalique’s stunning work represents an era when car mascots were the ultimate luxury, capturing the grace and power of the cars they adorned.
The collection includes an original Breves mount, which allows light to shine through them – and visitors can see their full beauty by pushing a button to light up the dragonfly star exhibit.
Lalique was born in France in 1860 and by the age of 12, was already winning awards for his drawings before his mother arranged his apprenticeship with famous Parisian jeweller and goldsmith Louis Aucoc.
He opened his own workshop in 1885 and attracted the attention of prominent personalities of the day.
It is believed that Cinq Chevaux (five prancing horses) was Lalique’s first purpose-designed car mascot, when it was commissioned by André Citroën to be mounted on the radiator of his newly designed Citroën 5CV.
Previously on loan by its private owner it forms the glittering centrepiece of the Museum’s TheLuxury of Motoring exhibition – where visitors to Beaulieu can see the showcase of illuminated mascots.
Grants of £83,500 each from Art Fund and National Heritage Memorial Fund, together with £40,00 from Arts Council England/V&A Purchase Grant Fund and £5000 from a private donor have secured its long-term future.
National Heritage Memorial Fund Chair, Dr Simon Thurley CBE said the car mascots are not only exquisite examples of Lalique’s glasswork, but an important symbol of our early-20th-century motoring heritage.
Senior Curator Gail Stewart-Bye said they were thrilled to have secured the Lalique mascot collection for the National Motor Museum, where it can be enjoyed by all of our visitors.
“We are very grateful to those who made this acquisition possible, as well as to the collection owner who gave us time to raise funds for its purchase,” she said.
“These important mascots enable us to take the story of motoring in a direction which shows our visitors the diversity, surprise and splendour of our collections. They will remain on display in TheLuxury of Motoring gallery and we will continue to engage with the public through a range of programmes focused on motoring art and design.”
As a keen fisherman, the private owner began his extraordinary Lalique collection with the glass perch, which started a six-year quest to find true and perfect mascot examples.
From the light-radiating, delicate veined wings of a dragonfly to the heartiest falcon mascot with its thick, tapered neck which fits tightly into the mount, the collection includes majestic animals and human forms that bring art into everyday life.
Motoring mascots have a strong association with Beaulieu.
When Rolls-Royce asked Charles Sykes to design one for them, the Spirit of Ecstasy was born and the muse and inspiration for much of Sykes’ work was Eleanor Thornton, the personal secretary and secret mistress of John 2nd Baron Montagu.
Examples of the Spirit of Ecstasy and the Montagu family mascot The Whisper can also be seen at Beaulieu.