The Gallé signatures on glass after 1904 : a tentative chronology (part II, 1920-1936)

This article is the second and final part of a general investigation on Gallé signatures on glass in the industrial era of the factory : read the first part here.

A preliminary note on signatures and marks

A question of terminology I should have addressed in the first part is the use of the terms “signature“ and “mark“. On this subject, I fully agree with François Le Tacon’s remarks that “signature“ should be reserved to Émile Gallé’s art pieces, unique or produced in single digit numbers artworks whose creation he personally supervised, while “mark“ should be used for all the industrial series. I have obviously chosen to ignore the distinction for this study though because I limited myself to the era beginning with Émile Gallé’s death, when, with a very few exceptions, there are no more unique artworks but only industrial series. The point therefore seemed moot, while the general usage in the literature favours the term “signature“.

Gallé Mk IV (1920-1936) : the simple or straight Gallé signature.

The simple or straight Gallé signature, with a final latin -é, represents the most frequent of all the Gallé marks. Its design is the simplest of all, and it has very few variants, if any. Its precursors are some signatures from Émile Gallé’s time, usually with a more elongated and wavy G’s tail and less regular LL’s ascenders. But it’s better understood as the Mk II-III signatures (the final -é variants) without the underscore. The signature is most commonly etched in cameo on the piece, but it can also more exceptionally be etched in hollow or even enamelled, on the relevant series.

René Dézavelle stated in his notes on the history of Gallé that the drop of the underscore in the signature occurred “after 1918” [1]. This chronology was slightly modified by François Le Tacon and others who, correctly in my view, postponed the introduction of this new mark “ca. 1920” [2]. As has been explained in the first part of this essay, the change of signatures can be dated from the second half of 1920 – tentatively in September – as a reaction to the departure of several historical Gallé collaborators, in late 1919 on the design team (Louis Hestaux, Paul Nicolas) and in August 1920 in the sales team (Albert Daigueperce). The adoption of this uniform simplified signature signals, in its own discrete way, another step in the standardisation of the industrial processes.

A sample of Mk IV signatures, from left to right : Lake landscape boat shaped cup, ©Nabécor 10/06/2017 ; Lake landscape vase, ©Quittenbaum 23/05.2017 ; Lotus flower cup, ©Philadelphia Museum of Art.
Fig. 2. A sample of Mk IV signatures, from left to right : Lake landscape boat shaped cup, ©Nabécor 10/06/2017 ; Lake landscape vase, ©Quittenbaum 23/05.2017 ; Lotus flower cup, ©Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Carolus Hartmann ascribed the use of a similar signature also to the 1906-1914 period [3] : it’s possible that some of the glass pieces he used to make this determination are in fact later in date, but it’s also true that some series exceptionally sport this mark in the late 1900s. For instance, several specimens from the black on yellow Joan of Arc series, securely dated from 1909, do have this signature or an -έ ending variant. In this case, it can perhaps be better understood as a variant of the Mk III, without the underscore : these are small pieces with a peculiar reticulated background whose lines replaced in fact the missing underscore or at least made it impractical to integrate in the design. There may have been other series, of course [4], but this use remained quite exceptional and is ignored by the other signatures catalogues.

Among the questions remaining about this Mk IV signature is if it had subtypes. Considering that the Mk II and Mk III each had subtypes with an -é rather than the regular -έ, that the contemporaneous Mk V also had subtypes with the same alternating final letters (see below), it is logical to ask if the simple and not uncommon Gallέ signature could not be considered, for some of its specimens, as a Mk IV variant. But in fact, most of these pieces are either genuine pre-1904 pieces or forgeries and the actual number of Gallέ signed items from the 1910s and 1920s seems very low.

It cannot be excluded either that we are making too much of the distinction between the latin -é and the greek -έ : the painter-decorators themselves sometimes seemed to have a hard time deciding between the two. After all, closing the upper part of the -e is enough to make it an epsilon and there are quite a few glass pieces where the etching looks ambivalent, with the -é’s eye not completely closed as it should be, or the other way around when a –έ was intended. This remark stands for all the industrial series, by the way, and not only for the Mk IV. The signatures were usually drawn on the same stencils as the decors or on separate stencils, allowing the decorators to make perfect copies of them. But, it could happen that part of the signature was accidentally erased during the painting. Moreover, for the smaller pieces, no stencils was provided and the painter had to draw it by hand alone : this certainly explains some discrepancies [5]. The Gallé factory quality control did also lapse from time to time and allowed these imperfect signatures to remain, especially on the smaller items of course. Thankfully, these are not common cases. In the overwhelming majority of glass pieces, the Mk IV signature features a very recognisable -é.

François Le Tacon has made the crucial remark that this signature was prevalent on small glass pieces and remained so during the whole period [6]. There is evidence to support this assertion in the Gallé sales album from the Rakow Library, dated from September 1927. Among the 354 vases pictured, 65 have their signature visible (18,4% of the total). It looks like a completely random sample : no effort has been made by the photographer to arrange the glass objects to hide nor to show this particular element, so all the different kinds of items are represented (vases, lamps, perfume bottles, candy boxes, atomisers), as are all the sizes (from 5 to 61 cm high). In this sample of 65 signatures, 29 are the Mk IV one (44,6% of the signatures), against 34 for the MK VI, the underlined tangent-G name (52,3%), and only 2 for the Mk III (3,1%). The average height of the items with a Mk IV signature is only 14,75 cm, much less than half the size of their Mk VI counterparts, which are 38,8 cm tall in average. And sure enough, almost all the smaller items (candy boxes, atomisers, cups) are marked with the simpler signature (see the picture above), while the bigger ones (lamps, the taller vases) sport the Mk VI one. If we accept that this sample is representative of the Gallé product line in 1927, here is how we can read this distribution of signatures : the rarest is the legacy signature from 1919 and before, still present on some remaining stock ; the commonest (Mk VI) is the new official signature for the big prestige pieces ; the second commonest (Mk IV) is the permanent one (after 1920) for the smaller items. This latter one is almost as frequent as the dominant one in the sample simply because these smaller items make up for a large part of the Gallé production.

If this interpretation is correct, it means that, from 1920 on, the Gallé direction, in departure from their practice until then, made the decision to treat differently the mass-produced small items from the costlier more prestigious vases and lamps. The newly chosen signature was kept, for its simplicity, as the main one, often the only one, for the entry-level glass items.

An important potential confirmation of the chronology comes from a vase sold in 2017 by Duval Enchères. This soliflore vase with a pattern of poppy flowers, is marked with the Mk IV signature. It still has its “Emile Gallé - Nancy Paris” original label with an interesting serial lot number, 94937. If the label is indeed genuine, this number dates the vase production, or more accurately its marketing, around October 1920 [7], in any case in the immediate months following Daigueperce’s removal from his position as the head of the Paris depot. It would thus belong to one of the first batches of glass items with this signature. This inventory number is also the highest one on record for this type of label, which suggests that the count was begun anew shortly thereafter, to reflect perhaps the new management under Mohrenwitz. For these reasons, this poppy soliflore appears to be an important testimony regarding a major change in August or September 1920 – barring of course some new evidence to the contrary.

Gallé Mk V (ca. 1920-ca. 1924) : the inverted tail G signature, aka the “Pi“ Gallé signature.

It happens that the next period in the Gallé signature chronology coincided more or less with the tenure of one artist as the main designer for glass, Jean Rouppert. Early creations of Jean Rouppert still bore the Mk III signature, while other ones had the Mk IV. But the majority of his identified designs – and there are quite a few, since his archives were thankfully preserved – sported a new one, the Mk V, which François Le Tacon baptised the “Pi signature“, in reference to the peculiar shape of its LLs topped by a stroke [8].

One drawing from the Rouppert archives, a project for an advertisement flyer or a poster, features prominently the Gallé brand with many characteristics of the new design (see above) : the overflowing upper end of the LLs, a short underscore detached both from the G and the latin -é (contrary to the 1908-1920 signature), an initial G with the tail describing a downward curve, instead of the previous upward one.

The “Pi“ signature is just a little different, most notably in the way the LLs are surmounted by a line, as to form this pi-shape, but also because the underscore, when it exists, is often – but not always – linked to the -é. But it remains that the defining characteristic of this signature is not the upper line linking the LLs, since this feature varies greatly from one subtype to the other, as shown on the table : it’s really the inverted tail of the G, with a descending curve, an extremely rare feature in pre-1904 Gallé signatures. The “Pi“ shape denomination is for this reason misguided in my opinion. 

Otherwise, the two designs are so close that there is no real doubt that the Rouppert drawing represents a rendering of the signature. He probably designed it himself, since it does not really resemble any previous one [9]. In fact, a small detail reinforces this hypothesis, Jean Rouppert’s own signature on his drawings. Unlike the other designers, he signed almost everything he drew, even simple floral studies like the one pictured above, with at least his initials JR. On his signatures, the J is either missing its tail or has the same curved downward tail as the G in the Mk V Gallé signature.

The advertisement project is dated from 1920, which we can assume is the terminus post quem for this signature’s introduction on Gallé glass. Several minor variants exist, from the design of the overlined LLs to the absence of the underscore. They may well signal chronological subdivisions inside the general period of use of this signature, but there’s no way at the moment to separate them.

Here again, a chronological confirmation comes from a securely dated vase : this grapevine urn shaped vase shows the overlined L signature (but without an underscore), associated with an incised dedication to a woman first named Marie-Louise, with the date 28th November 1922. This kind of inscriptions usually indicates a gift for a birthday or another personal special occasion. They are especially useful for dating a series since they provide a terminus ante quem for the marketing of the glass – we’ll make the assumption here that the delay between the making of the glass and its sale wasn’t greater than a few months [10]. It confirms therefore that the Mk V signature, or at least this particular variant, made its debut before November 1922.

When did it cease to be in use? It was most probably still the main Gallé signature at the Galliera exhibition in June-September 1923 [11]. On the other hand, none of the new 1925 series was marked with it. So, it was probably dropped in between. One hypothesis is that, as it was linked with Jean Rouppert’s artwork, it was discontinued when he chose to leave the company for a more lucrative job in Lyon, in 1924.

Two nearly identical contemporary periwinkles vases, one with the Mk V signature and a stamp “Made in France - Special“, the other with the Mk IV signature. (© Quittenbaum 2020).
Fig. 8. Two nearly identical contemporary periwinkles vases, one with the Mk V signature and a stamp “Made in France - Special“, the other with the Mk IV signature. (© Quittenbaum 2020).

We could therefore envision a 1920-1924 period as the longest possible for its use, the shortest being 1922-1923. The comparatively small number of vases with this signature suggests a short span rather than a long one, unless its use was restricted to some series while the Mk IV signature remained the main one. That these two signatures were used concurrently is demonstrated by the recent sale of two identical periwinkles vases, coming presumably from the same collector, one with the Mk IV signature and the other with the Mk V. What’s more, the latter comes also with an exceptionally rare acid etched mark under the base, “Spécial. Made in France“ : If it’s genuine [12], this is a manifest clue that this specimen was originally made for the American market, since such a mark was a requirement under the McKinley Tariff Act of 1890 and the subsequent legislation. The combination of this stamp with a different signature possibly suggests, if the vases are indeed strictly contemporaneous, that the signature might have been considered as a mean of market differentiation by the Gallé direction. We also know from Dézavelle’s testimony and the existence of the Rakow library Gallé sales’ album that the Établissements Gallé were keen on expanding on the US market. Unfortunately, these stamps are uncommon, to say the least, so we do not know if they were associated with a particular signature [13] : they have never been studied nor referenced in the literature about Gallé [14], which obviously raises questions [15].

Gallé Mk VI (1925–1936) : the underlined tangent-G Gallé signature

The next new signature to be introduced in the Gallé line was also the most common one after the Mk IV simple Gallé for the whole post-WW1 period. This was in fact a rather small modification of the dominant 1908-1920 underlined Gallé design : the underscore, still running from the final accented epsilon (-έ) is no longer intersecting the G’s tail but is tangential to its curve. There doesn’t seem to be any variant with a latin -é [16] : this -é ending is therefore limited to the Mk IV and V signatures after 1920.

The terminus ante quem for the introduction of this underlined tangent-G Gallé signature is 1925 because the relief series from that year, possibly created for the Exposition internationale des arts décoratifs in Paris, exhibit in general this mark, or sometimes a later one (the Mk VII signature) but not an older one [17]. For instance, the famed Elephants series is known both with this underlined tangent-G signature and with the vertical Mk VII, which is actually more frequent [18].

There is a good case to be made that 1925 was in fact the year of its introduction, in a marked departure with all the Gallé signatures’ chronologies. All the securely dated glass series whose creation antedates 1925 possess examples with older signatures : for instance, the Lake of Como, a very popular and prestigious series, has specimens with almost all the main kinds of signatures, from its probable creation in 1919-1920 (Mk III), to the last main signatures in the 1930s (Mk VIII), including of course this Mk VI one [19]. On the other hand, as expected, the series discontinued after 1924, like the Rouppert enamelled designs, lack this signature or any other later ones.

Le Tacon suggested that the hiring of George Dethorey and Théodore (Théo) Ehrhart [20], the two new designers, by Paul Perdrizet, ca. 1925, prompted the creation of the Japanese styled signatures (see Mk VII to IX below). I agree that this renewal of the design team fostered a change of mark, but I would argue that the new one was indeed the Mk VI [21].

The problem is that we do not know the precise date of these hirings : the only chronological evidence we have is a terminus ante quem with the May 1927 photography for the reception of the aviator Marc Bernard, in which both appear, according to Jean Bourgogne [22]. A note from the same Jean Bourgogne, the only grandson of Émile Gallé and the last administrator of the factory, states that in the 1920s, the recruitment of new designers was difficult [23] : it reflects perhaps this 1924-1925 crisis and hints at a hiatus between Jean Rouppert’s departure and the hiring of his successors. Two other events could be more directly responsible for this switch though, as we have already noted above : the transformation of the Établissements Gallé in a société anonyme par actions and the ambitious creative innovations linked with the 1925 Exposition des Arts décoratifs in Paris.

Whatever the case, this is a ubiquitous signature in the second half of the 1920s. This is the most common signature in the Gallé sales album from the Rakow library (1927), and the almost exclusive one for the bigger pieces, the standard simple Mk IV Gallé signature remaining in use for the smaller objects. Two emblematic Gallé designs from the 1920s sport this signature on some of their copies : the Seagull, created in May 1927 and the Polar bears ca. 1927-1929 [24]. Many late 1920s Art Déco styled series also feature this signature, such as the big three-tiered ceiling fixtures or some vase series with almost geometrical patterns.

Chronological confirmation comes here too from the dated and/or inscribed vases :

  • A Japanese quince themed vase showing this signature was sold in November 1928, for 430 Fr, in the Paris depot, according to the original invoice [25]. It belonged to the same series as a vase pictured in the Rakow library album from 1927 (pl. 29, no 303).

  • A sports federation offered an impressive peony vase as a congratulatory gift for one of its member in February 1929 [26]. Gallé vases still featured as favoured prizes in sporting events in the late 1920s and early 1930s.

This signature was therefore in use from 1925 at least until 1929, and most probably well into the 1930s, judging from its prevalence on late floral vase and lamps series, as well as from its significant presence on the Perdrizet album.

Gallé Mk VII - VIII - IX (ca. 1927/1928-1936) : the vertical and horizontal “Japanese styled” Gallé signatures

The last somewhat widespread signatures on the 1920s-1930s series are the so-called “Japanese styled“ ones (“Japonisantes“ in French). They owe this qualification to the remark by François Le Tacon [27] that they are in large part derived from older signatures from Émile Gallé’s time, characterised by an ornate G reminiscent of the Japanese calligraphy. What’s confusing with this Japanese styled name is that vases with a Japanese influenced decor do not necessarily sport this signature but rather the Mk IV or VI one. Conversely, it is the Art Deco style vases that are most likely to bear these signatures. It’s therefore a misleading nomenclature at best, and I would advocate against its use.

On the Perdrizet sales album, these are the most frequently seen signatures, in particular on late series like the crackled vases (Mk VII), the Art Déco styled ones, the Polar Bear ones (Mk VIII), but also on some earlier series still in production like the Elephants (Mk VIII). The other visible signature is the underlined tangent-G one. The album reflecting the Gallé line of products during the early 1930s, this is an important argument favouring a rather late introduction of these new types of signatures. Its value is unfortunately lesser than the 1927 album from the Rakow library because it was visibly cobbled together in a piece meal fashion rather than being the result of a single photographical session.

These Mk VII-IX signatures have decidedly an ornamental character : this is a decorative script in the way of the Pseudo-Kufic script or the Kanji or Katakana styled inscriptions. The signature is made to be seen and admired for its elegant design. In this regard, this is a marked departure from all the other signatures since 1904 and a return to old practices by Émile Gallé – with the difference that it is standardised. But it signals also the next logical step in the progressive decorative use of this standardised signature, which began in the early 1920s : it was already visible in the evolving location, size and technique of the late Mk III, the Mk V and VI signatures on medium to large glass pieces. It explains also why these Mk VII-IX signatures are rare : they were largely limited to the more prestigious series, where they could fit within the overall design. There was simply not enough space in the smaller objects, therefore still signed with the Mk IV for the most part, but also with the Mk VI.

The Mk VII signature

The first of these signatures (Mk VII), the rarest of the three [28], is a vertical one : the letters are aligned on top of each other and read from top to bottom. The G is characterised by a long tail tracing a left and upward curve, under which the a is somewhat flattened ; the double LLs are capital latin seriffed letters, the second L being encased inside the first one ; the final é is the usual accented epsilon inherited from the Mk VI signature, but the accent cuts the bigger L’s base above it.

This Mk VII signature is overwhelmingly present on the “crackled” vase series. These were introduced arguably ca. 1927 : two specimens are displayed on the table in the Gallé packaging room, in a photograph we can tentatively date from May 1927 [29], and there is no earlier evidence of their making, to my knowledge. I would therefore propose to date the creation of this signature from this same year and to make it the oldest of the “Japanese styled” signatures on glass. It is otherwise used rather sparingly, but it is also attested on other series like the Elephants, or on ovoid ceiling lighting fixtures, which suggest it might have had a specific chronological window, yet to be determined, in the late 1920s-early 1930s.

The Mk VIII and IX signatures

A sample of Mk IX and VIIIa signatures (from left to right, Polar bear vase, ©Glasmuseum Hentrich Düsseldorf, MP 1977-25 ; Prunelles vase, ©Quittenbaum 11/11/2014 ; Magnolia vase, ©Quittenbaum 15/11/2016.
Fig. 14. A sample of Mk IX and VIIIa signatures (from left to right, Polar bear vase, ©Glasmuseum Hentrich Düsseldorf, MP 1977-25 ; Prunelles vase, ©Quittenbaum 11/11/2014 ; Magnolia vase, ©Quittenbaum 15/11/2016.

The two other main late signatures are very close one to another and one could argue that they are subtypes of the same general mark, one horizontal and the other vertical. The Mk IX is a vertical mark, also very close to the Mk VII, but more ornate, with more sinuous paths for the letters, heavily seriffed. The Mk VIII is superficially the horizontal equivalent of Mk IX, with one main difference : the a is prolonged by a stroke to its right through the ascender of the first L (and sometimes the second as well). This is its common characteristic, shared by various subtypes, among which the way the G’s tail cuts or not the a seems to be the main difference. For this reason, I would be inclined to group under the Mk VIII type some vertical signatures as well.

François Le Tacon makes a big deal of the lower left serif of the big L becoming a small loop in some specimens of the Mk VIII signature : this loop is a little less marked than on the Mk IX signature, but it’s the same kind of design. I do not think it qualifies as more than perhaps a subtype defining feature.

Auguste Herbst (attributed to), A cockerel before Strasbourg, wooden tray, ca. 1919, with a Mk VIII variant prototype (©Von Zezschwitz Kunst und Design Auctions Munich 2016).
Fig. 15. Auguste Herbst (attributed to), A cockerel before Strasbourg, wooden tray, ca. 1919, with a Mk VIII variant prototype (©Von Zezschwitz Kunst und Design Auctions Munich 2016).

This Mk VIII signature actually made its debut on wood designs, during the First World War at the latest, and probably earlier. It’s the most frequent one, with minimal variations, on tea trays representing French or British soldiers, but also on marquetries celebrating the French victory in 1918-1919 (see above the cockerel in front of Strasbourg) for instance [30]. It’s also featured on civil designs from the same period, all authored by Auguste Herbst. The general chronology of wood designs and of their signatures is unfortunately far less well known than for their glass counterparts outside this war period (isn’t that saying something ?!). But I would argue that, by the end of the Établissements Gallé’s history, the signatures used on wood and glass tended to look similar, which was not the case previously.

Auguste Herbst, Oak and spruce tray signed with the Mk IX, gift from the École nationale des eaux et forêts to their Swedish counterpart, 15/10/1928 (private collection).
Fig. 16. Auguste Herbst, Oak and spruce tray signed with the Mk IX, gift from the École nationale des eaux et forêts to their Swedish counterpart, 15/10/1928 (private collection). 

Among the later securely dated Gallé artworks, one commemorative wooden tray also designed by Auguste Herbst sports the Mk VIII signature and the date 1928. But it’s difficult to consider it a clue for its adoption on glass, since it seems to be the prevalent signature on wood for the whole 1920s and early 1930s. On the other hand, it’s somewhat logical since we know that after 1920, Auguste Herbst became somewhat more involved in the glass designs as the overall art director of Établissements Gallé : he transferred on glass the signatures he had drawn originally for his wood decors.

The Mk VIII is featured on some floral series in replacement of the Mk VI signature, it seems : for instance, one of the most pictured series in the 1927 album is the wild rose with only one type of signature shown (on two specimen), the Mk VI, while there are plenty of Mk VIII signed ones on the market. The same goes for some other floral series, like the magnolias or the marguerites. Another interesting example is the Polar bears series, where the Mk IX signature is the most frequently used, but which is also known featuring the Mk VI. In each case, the Mk VIII/IX is presumed to adorn the later versions of these glass pieces, since the Mk VI signature demonstrably appeared earlier and the Mk VIII/IX features prominently in the later pictorial testimony that is the Perdrizet album.

The reason behind these new signatures switches are unknown. The Mk VII might have been created only for the crackled series at the beginning. The new unusual design of these vases, with their irregular pattern, was particularly suited to showcase a new decorative signature that is its sole figurative element. Some of these vases even have their lower half plain, without pattern (like the ice shelf on which the polar bears are standing, on another series with the same shape) : the signature is all the more visible on them.

The Mk VIII and Mk IX have no such rational readily available : they were not created for a new spectacular design in the Gallé line, like the Mk VI for the relief vases and the Mk VII for the crackled ones (supposedly). For all we know, they are merely replacing the Mk VI signature on many series, from some floral and landscape ones to the Polar Bears and the Elephants. This means that their terminus post quem is 1926, or rather 1927.

In line with the previous changes of the 1920s, it should reflect a major inflexion in artistic and/or managerial nature, but nothing stands out in the known history of the Etablissements Gallé during this period. Can the elevation of Jean Bourgogne as the new administrator in 1929 or 1930 qualify [31] ? The only other notable event one can think of is the shutting down of the main furnace in 1931 and the decision to wind down the production, hardly a matter to commemorate with a new signature, surely? Another possibility of course, in particular for the rare Mk VII type, is that the new signature was the creation of a newly recruited designer (but who? Dethorey and Ehrhart were both recruited before May 1927), the way the Mk V type can most probably be attributed to Jean Rouppert.

A renewed flexibility in the use of different signatures during the late 1920s and early 1930s?

Beyond the main types described above, other signatures were also used on glass in the 1920s, underlining the greater flexibility allowed in this matter, compared to the 1904-1920 period. On Art Déco styled pieces, the straight Gallé signature design takes a more geometrical, even squarish shape. On some pieces belonging to the Gallé version of the Egyptian Revival style, from the mid- to the late 1920s, the signature is enclosed in a cartouche and formed from cuneiform script, the Mk X featured on the table below [32]. Other variants are attested.

There are still questions left opened of course regarding the main signatures we have just described. For instance, one wonders if the Mk III signature was not reintroduced at some point during the 1920s, and not completely discontinued after 1920. Some specimen of late series glass do feature this signature. It’s so uncommon that a mistake or a forgery could explain some of these instances, but that remains to be proved.

In our current state of knowledge, with the archives available today, there is no way to account for the diversity and the statistical distribution of the Gallé signatures with a strict chronological scheme. Other factors must have come in play, the problem being that we have no clear understanding of them yet. Whatever the case, the 1920s and 1930s seem to have been characterised by a much greater flexibility in the use of the signatures than in the preceding decade.

Among the yet unexplored possibilities to explain the different signatures lies the geographical explanation hinted at in the general introduction of this study and above for the Mk V signature (different market, different signatures). Special events might also have spurred some commemorative creations we haven’t heard of yet : the different anniversaries of Émile Gallé (his death’s 20th in 1924, what would have been his 70th birthday in 1926) given his importance to the company and the reverence his memory was held in by this family and his collaborators alike.

It’s rather sobering to note that there is basically almost a whole decade (ca. 1928-1936) for which we have almost no hard data at all. The Établissements Gallé were not taking part anymore in international or national artistic exhibitions but limiting their representation to big commercial fairs, most notably in Lyon and Leipzig [33] : they were shunning even the local salons of Nancy. There are therefore no critical review to read about their offerings nor photographic coverage of their new series. After the 1927 American album, the only pictorial evidence is the Pierre Perdrizet’s sales album from the early 1930s which is incomplete. Even considering that the probability is rather slim that a new signature was created after the dismissal of the design team in late 1930, it leaves us with much uncertainty.

Conclusion

Many unknowns remain on the general chronology of the signatures used on the Gallé industrial series. However, a few important precisions or revisions to the generally accepted historical timeline have been established :

  • The First War World had no effect on the signature : the 1908 signature (Mk III) – which was really the 1905 one (Mk II) minus the star – remained in use until 1920.

  • The first significant change after the war came in August 1920 with the dismissal of Albert Daigueperce and the wide renewal of the design team the same summer : two new signatures (Mk IV-V) were introduced in rapid succession and came perhaps to be limited to certain categories of glass pieces.

  • The second major move of the 1920s came in 1925, when, like in 1920, the general management and the design team experienced some important changes : the main signature (Mk VI) for what remained of the Établissements Gallé’s run was then introduced.

  • Later signatures (Mk VII-IX), the so-called Japanese-styled marks, with one type more florid than the other, appeared probably no sooner than 1927 or even 1928.

The chronological table shown above summarises this general timeline for the main signatures in use by Établissements Gallé. The table voluntarily excludes all the minor variants, for clarity and because these do not alter significantly the picture. I have colour-coded the main types of signature to show how they all seem to coexist during the last 8 or 9 years, but it may simply reflect at least in part the lack of precise data. What looks indisputable though is that the uniformity of the first 15 years was replaced by a growing diversity of signatures in use at the same time or over a short period. I have also added the names of the main designers for glass for the relevant periods. The colour coding of their names does not imply their work was restricted to the corresponding signature : for instance, Auguste Herbst was active during the whole period, even if he was mostly in charge of the wood design works before 1914 and seemed to have been implicated in the glass design mainly after 1920 ; Jean Rouppert was already active at the end of the Mk III era and during the beginning of the Mk IV one.

It can be argued that, lacking administrative archives or other hard data, much of this new chronology relies on circumstantial evidence only. This is a starting point for building a reliable general chronology for Gallé industrial series, that I fully expect to be revised multiple times. Corrections and further precisions, notably of the late 1920s-early 1930s signatures, will come from additional data points, provided notably by uncovering other securely dated vases : to this end, I am calling the collectors and the antiques’ sellers among the readers to, please kindly send me any documented pictures of vases they might find relevant for this investigation. Their contribution will be treated with all the requisite discretion, and they will be credited if they want to, if and when their pictures are used in a subsequent publication.

© Samuel Provost, 2 January 2021


Bibliography

  • Hakenjos B. 2012, Emile Gallé: Keramik, Glas und Möbel des Art Nouveau, Barten S., Harder H. (ed.), Munich, Hirmer.

  • Hartmann C. 1997, Glasmarken-Lexikon 1600-1945: Signaturen, Fabrik- und Handelsmarken : Europa und Nordamerika, Stuttgart, Arnoldsche.

  • Le Tacon F. 1993, “Les techniques et les marques sur verre des Établissements Gallé après 1918”, Le Pays Lorrain, 74, 4, p. 203‑218.

  • Le Tacon F. 1998, L’œuvre de verre d’Émile Gallé, Paris, Éd. Messene.

  • Olland Ph. 2016, Dictionnaire des maîtres verriers : marques et signatures : de l’Art nouveau à l’Art déco, Dijon, Éditions Faton.

  • Provost S. 2017, “La signature Gallé à l’étoile : une révision chronologique et une estimation quantitative”, Journal of Glass Studies, 39, p. 349‑365.


Footnotes

  1. Dézavelle 1974, p. 37. ↩︎

  2. Le Tacon 1998, p. 192. See also Hartmann 1997, no 3671, 3685 ; Olland 2016, table 13, p. 157. Of course, where they erred is that they thought this was the second post-war new signature after the tangent-G one (MK VI) when there’s good reason to think it was in fact the first one : see below. ↩︎

  3. Hartmann 1997, no 3661, 3664. ↩︎

  4. For instance, a brown-orange lake landscape in the Ermitage Museum in Saint-Petersburg is tentatively dated 1906-1914, but it is not a Russian imperial acquisition, and it entered the collections in 2005 only : The Gallé Line, Moscow, 2013, no 307. The Glas Museum Hentrich in Düsseldorf has a mountain landscape vase with this same signature and a ca. 1906-1914 date, but in reality these shape and decor were still in production in the late 1920s and the vase might has well be dated from the regular Mk IV period. These two examples show how problematic it is to find pre-1920 vases with this signature. ↩︎

  5. All these details come from Le Tacon’s interviews, first reported in his seminal article on signatures (Le Tacon 1993) and then reprised in one of his books (Le Tacon 1998). ↩︎

  6. Le Tacon 1998, p. 192. See also Hartmann 1997, no 3671, 3685 ; Olland 2016, table 13, p. 157. ↩︎

  7. This deserves of course some further explanation, but I will leave it for a future article on the Gallé labels and their meaning, a complicate subject in itself. For the matter at hand, suffice it to say that, according to the Charpentier work notes on the Daigueperce archives, the lot number 92000 was reached on the summer of 1920. ↩︎

  8. Le Tacon 1998, p. 192 and 199. See also Hartmann 1997, nos 3682, 3683 and 3690 ; Olland 2016, table 13 p. 157. ↩︎

  9. Pace François Le Tacon who wrote that it was influenced by a 1898-1904 design (Le Tacon 1998, p. 192) : I wonder if he does not refer to pieces that are now attributed to the Rouppert period, like some enamelled vases. ↩︎

  10. Of course a piece of glass could stay years in an inventory, so it’s important to distinguish the making from the sale. ↩︎

  11. This determination comes from the identification of the Gallé vases in this exhibition as Jean Rouppert’s creations. The vases matching the Rouppert designs all have the Mk V signature. I plan to address this subject in a future article on this website. The catalogue dryly notes the participation of the Établissements Gallé as “decorated glass“ : Exposition de la verrerie et de l'émaillerie modernes : exposition rétrospective, Musée Galliera, Prieur et Dubois, Puteaux, 1923, p. 5. ↩︎

  12. The vase itself looks otherwise perfectly fine : this is a well attested shape (see plate 39 of the Rakow library album) and decor. ↩︎

  13. Here are a few other specimen referenced by auction houses and all belonging to the mid to late 1920s, judging by their description and the available pictures : Sotheby’s New York, 17/03/1995 lot 126, relief Rhododendron vase (ca. 1925) ; Christie’s New York, 12/04/1997, lot 27, relief black Elephants vase, signature Mk VII ; Sotheby’s New York, 31/10/1997, lot 1037, crab and starfish dish (wrongly dated ca. 1900) ; Christie’s New York, 07/12/2001, lot 391, floral heart shaped vase (wrongly dated ca. 1910) ; James D. Julia, 17/06/2006, lot 1005, floral vase ; Bonhams, 07/04/2008 lot 1149, floral vase (wrongly dated ca. 1900) ; James D. Julia, 19/06/2008, lot 379, red roses. The only one of these with an identified/pictured signature is the 1997 Christie’s Elephants vase, with a characteristic Mk VII signature, so a 1927 or later specimen of this series. ↩︎

  14. Neither Le Tacon (1998) nor Olland (2016) seem to know about it, or alternatively they did not deem it worthy of report because it was not specific to Gallé. It’s also missing from Hartmann (1997). ↩︎

  15. On the other hand, we do not know either how the Établissements Gallé were complying with the country of origin’s mark requirement under the US law. This is yet another matter to be investigated. ↩︎

  16. That is, until some of my readers, kindly send me some, I suppose. But I haven’t seen any nor is it referenced in the usual extensive catalogues of Gallé signatures : Hartmann 1997, nos 3677-3679 ; Le Tacon 1998, pl. 10, p. 199 ; Olland 2016, table 13, p. 157. ↩︎

  17. There are a few exceptions such as this plum vase from the Joel Schur collection sold at Christie’s New York in 2017. In this example, the signature’s type is not the only anomaly : it’s etched in hollow rather than raised and located near the vase of the vase rather than near the neck, as is usually the case for this series. ↩︎

  18. It’s worth noting that the Elephant vase on the Perdrizet sales album sports this vertical signature, because these photographs reflect the last inventory of the Gallé line and belong to the early 1930s. So, the Elephant vase with the underlined tangent-G signature did come first. ↩︎

  19. There’s only missing, to my knowledge, the Mk V signature, but its contemporary counterpart, the Mk IV is attested. This absence could reinforce the notion that the Mk V signature was restricted to Rouppert’s creations since the Lake of Como design is Herbst’s. ↩︎

  20. Le Tacon 1998, p. 192. Almost nothing is known about them – Le Tacon did not even have their first names and Ehrhart’s name is often badly spelled. Both were local painters who exhibited their works in the Nancy salons during the 1930s and 1940s, like their Gallé predecessors had done. ↩︎

  21. Dethorey and/or Ehrhart could still be considered the designers of the Mk VII signature, but not as early as 1925 in my view. As for the Mk VIII-IX, they existed on wood before their recruitment and therefore cannot be considered their creation. ↩︎

  22. A copy of the photograph was donated by Jean Bourgogne to the Orsay Museum in 1986. There are unfortunately minor errors in the picture’s caption as transcribed on the Orsay website. ↩︎

  23. Manuscript note from Jean Bourgogne, undated, private collection. ↩︎

  24. Provost S. 2018, « Etablissements Gallé and the Industrial Mold-blown or Relief series of the 1920s », Journal of Glass Studies, 60, p. 269‑293 [open access link]. ↩︎

  25. It was sold in Munich by Quittenbaum on 2020-11-17. The invoice gives the lot number 24931 for this vase. ↩︎

  26. The vase was sold by Aguttes on 29/06/2017, lot 70. I am withholding the name as did the auction house. ↩︎

  27. Le Tacon 1993, p. 215 ; 1998, p. 192. ↩︎

  28. It is notably absent from Le Tacon’s relevant table (Le Tacon 1998, p. 199, table 11), I suppose because of this rarity. But it is referenced both by Harmann (1997, no 3689) and Olland (2017, p. 157 table 13). ↩︎

  29. The datation comes from the comparison avec another photograph, a group scene, with which it shares a key character, Émile Lang, the factory director, who is dressed and looks the same on both pictures. The hypothesis is that these pictures were taken on the 13th May 1927, when the aviator Marc Bernard toured the Établissements Gallé after having received as an official gift from the city of Nancy the original specimen of the Seagull vase. “Une journée en l’honneur des Ailes françaises”, L’Est Républicain, 13th May 1927. ↩︎

  30. On these war-themed wood marquetries, see Provost S. 2016, « La marqueterie, un art de guerre des Établissements Gallé », Le Pays Lorrain, 97, 2, p. 139‑148. ↩︎

  31. His tenure was short-lived since less than two years later the decision was made by the family to gradually shut down the factory : seeing his livelihood activity bound to disappear, Jean Bourgogne embraced another career as a scientist in the Museum d’histoire naturelle in Paris. ↩︎

  32. It’s worth noting that (presumably) later copies of these designs sported one kind of Japanese styles signatures, perhaps because this cuneiform signature was not understood or trusted by the clients. ↩︎

  33. Dézavelle 1974. ↩︎


How to cite this article : Samuel Provost, “The Gallé signatures on glass after 1904 : a tentative chronology (part II, 1920-1936)”, Newsletter on Art Nouveau Craftwork & Industry, no 5, 2 January 2021 [link].