Car mascots or radiator symbols have always been at the forefront in terms of decorating modern automobiles since 1905 when the water-cooling system or radiator made its entry. The filler cap on the front of the car excellently lent itself for the logo or a figurine of the manufacturer. Today we see the last vestiges of that continuing trend only in a couple of prestigious auto brands like Rolls-Royce and Jaguar.
In the following years especially the famous time period “Les Années Folles” or the 1920s, there was an absolute rage to add more personal mascots on the mainly expensive cars. Owners vowed to curiously communicate their social status or the things they loved through this.
Humorous motives like cartoon figures or animals that symbolized speed back then, erotic symbols like nymphs with almost translucent robes or personal references such as sports were executed in bronze, chrome plated cast iron or horn. The message was clear that the sky is the limit.
The famous glass designer René Lalique (1860-1945) was asked in 1925 by the car designer André Citroen to design a glass mascot for his new large Cinq Chevaux car. Out of this amazing collaboration came a five glass horses in trot. This design proved to be an instant success at the “Exposition des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes” in Paris that year.
No wonder it was considered a huge novelty at the time. If the car speeded, the light in the glass mascot lighted up. In addition, you could add various colour filters to give the mascot a matching colour in conjunction with the car.
From 1926 onward, Lalique designed a series of almost 20 glass mascots that young affluent car owners immediately embraced. The London-based Breves Gallery even published a special folder with all the models. They also supplied the chrome holder that could easily be screwed onto the radiator.
These attractively designed objects were made of pressed transparent glass. They were mostly finished by hand. The details were polished and satinated in order to give them a lively expression. They were all signed with the name R. Lalique moulded in the design itself.
Among them included an impressive looking eagle, a proud rooster with large feathers and a classic archer shooting his arrow forward. The glass symbols strengthened the sense of speed as if they were cutting through air. This was strikingly visible in the racing whippet dog design that seemed wanting to beat the car.
As with all fads the glass car mascots were highly sought-after and then abruptly scrapped. The economic crisis of 1929 made sure this extravagance was declared redundant. In addition, the Lalique mascots were prohibited with the new road and traffic laws introduced in the late 1930s. Finally in the 1940s, the concealed radiator under the hood ensured that the bronze variants were also rendered unnecessary. Only the logo or mark of the manufacturer stayed.
“At present, these glass designs are very rare and beloved designer items that are collected by both design lovers and classic car enthusiasts,”
said Dr. Lennart Booij, a renowned Dutch expert in art history.
To complement a complete Lalique mascots collection is sometimes one’s goal while others see them as part of a larger Lalique glass collection and then there are of course those adventurers who in fine weather simply put the glass mascot back on their old-timers and thus again relive that unique thrill of modern industrial luxury emanating from the 1920s.
For more information, please visit the website of Dr. Lennart Booij: www.booij-arts.com
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