Emile Gallé
Vase with orchid decoration

Vase with high relief orchid decoration
Emile Gallé (1846-1904)
Vase with high relief orchid decoration
Circa 1884
Faience, slip, polychrome 'grand feu' and 'feu d'or' decoration with transparent glaze
H. 25,7; W. 15,1 cm
© RMN-Grand Palais (Musée d'Orsay) / Hervé Lewandowski

Vase with high relief orchid decoration
Vase with high relief orchid decoration
Vase with high relief orchid decoration

Vase à décor d'orchidées en haut-relief [Vase with high relief orchid decoration]

This vase, by its technique, decoration and colours, belongs to a small group of rare works by Gallé, the most famous of which is a large dish in the shape of a seashell (Musée Ariana, Geneva). However, although the orchids featured are identical in both models, the vase, unlike the dish, is not in the Western tradition. With its truncated outline and indented surface, it draws rather on the creations of the Far East.

It seems that here, Gallé is offering an interpretation of flowers that he has observed. It is difficult to identify the particular species of orchid. This is interesting as the artist is all too often presented as a conscientious botanist, almost obsessed with accurately rendering plant physiology. However, we notice that when it came to adaptation, he was quite happy to take liberties with the original. Besides, there could be a time lapse between his observing the plant and using it in his decoration. In 1900, the artist referred to his "thirty five years of collecting orchids", but it was only in 1884, at the 8th exhibition of the Union Centrale des Arts Décoratifs (Central Union of Decorative Arts) that three ceramic works by Gallé were presented using orchids in the decoration. This vase, and the group of works to which it belongs, are clearly contemporary with this event, and so these diverse works can be regarded as early examples of an inspiration that would flourish around 1900, with all the flamboyance we now associate with that period, particularly in the area of glassware.

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