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A rare greyhound mascot with royal provenance leads Christie's Lalique Auction
René Lalique, Levrier, A, designed in 1929 Estimate: £300,000-500,000. Photo: Christie's Images Ltd 2012.

LONDON.- The venerable French glass, Lalique, comes to auction on 13 November at Christie’s – the only auction house with a sale dedicated to the renowned glassmaker. One-hundred-and-twenty lots feature with estimates ranging from £500 to £500,000, making this is an unmissable opportunity for collectors of these extraordinarily designed vases, bowls, tableware, perfume bottles, mascots and lighting. All items on offer will be on view at Christie’s South Kensington, London, 10-13 November.

The sale is led by a rare Levrier, A mascot of a racing greyhound (estimate: £300,000-500,000) illustrated above. Listed in contemporary publication, The Decorative Art Year Book of The Studio 1931, as designed for H.R.H. Prince George, later the Duke of Kent, in 1929 by the master glassmaker, René Lalique and is signed ‘R. LALIQUE’. The model was never put into production and the current piece on offer is the only known example, sure to arouse the attention of dedicated collectors of both Lalique and car memorabilia. It is to be sold complete with the original chromium mount, together with a bulb, wiring and original blue coloured glass filter.

The exceptionally rare work Levrier, A was inherited by the present owner and has been in the family for over twenty-five years. Its history prior to this remains tantalizingly elusive. It is the most important of the thirty car mascots René Lalique designed between 1920 and 1931. Since the 1920s, following the invention of the motorcar by Karl Benz in the 1880s, and the introduction of the assembly-line method by Henry Ford in 1914, nearly all cars have been mass-produced to meet demand. Small metal sculptures began to replace the thermometers and safety valves topping automobile radiators, the most famous of which was the Rolls-Royce Spirit of Ecstasy, also known as the Flying Lady in 1911. Well before manufacturers offered their own hood ornaments, affluent owners personalized the family car — Bentley or Bugatti, Hispano-Suiza or Isotta-Fraschini — with favorite designs, usually made of metal. Lalique’s stunning glass mascots were a particularly luxurious way to personalize the most exclusive automobiles; his first car mascot was a direct commission from André Citröen. Soon Lalique was adapting a broad variety of his 250 perfume bottles and paperweight designs into mascots to sit above the car radiator. Whilst a number of the other models were originally conceived as paperweights, this masterpiece was only realised as a mascot, eloquently evoking a sense of movement and speed appropriate for the golden age of the motorcar. Today, Lalique’s car mascots are still described as “among the most treasured automotive accessories”.

Often used as a mascot by sports teams, until the early 20th century the Greyhound was principally bred and trained for hunting and coursing, particularly deer. A number of historical figures and celebrities are recorded as having owned or raced greyhounds including many members of the British Royal family: William I, Richard II, Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, Queen Elizabeth I, James I, James II, Prince Albert, George V, Princess Mary, and others all had greyhounds as companions.

Greyhound racing, in its modern, recognizable form, was born in 1912, following Owen Patrick Smith’s invention of the mechanical or artificial hare using circular or oval tracks. The sport, a development of ‘coursing’ using live game and a straight track, was introduced to Britain in 1926 with the launch of the Greyhound Racing Association, and the first British meeting was held at Manchester's Belle Vue Stadium. The sport’s popularity grew and spread through cities and towns throughout the U.K. quickly; by the end of 1927 a total of forty tracks were in operation.

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November 3, 2012

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