René Lalique was born in 1860 in Ay, France, 85 miles east of Paris. His father died when René was four and the young boy was soon apprenticed to a Paris goldsmith where he developed an early appreciation for beautiful design and quality workmanship. At 12, René began art school where he studied drawing and also attended the Ecole des arts décoratifs. After two years of art training in London, he returned to Paris where he began designing beautiful Art Nouveau jewelry for the likes of Boucheron and Cartier. He also made jewelry under his own name and was considered amongst the finest (and most stylish) of jewelers.
In the 1920’s, Lalique began working with glass, much of it in the popular Art Deco style. Vases, bowls, chandeliers, perfume bottles and . . . hood ornaments. The Tete d’Aigle—or “Eagle’s Head”—car “mascot” was designed by the glass master in 1928. Made of glass, it would have been securely mounted atop the hood of a luxurious 1920’s automobile—glowing courtesy of a small light bulb mounted in the chassis below the glass sculpture. While the design was executed in the 1920’s, this particular piece was produced after 1945 (determined by the particulars of the Lalique signature scratched into the crystal). 1945 was the year of the artist’s death—and the end of WWII—a turning point which marked the beginning of a new chapter in the company’s life story. Réne’s son (and right hand), Marc, took over the family business, dramatically modernizing, improving and growing the firm. One important change: Marc began executing his father’s designs in heavier crystal (instead of glass which his father had used).