Musée d'Orsay: Emile Gallé On such a night as this

Emile Gallé
On such a night as this

On such a night as this
Emile Gallé (1846-1904)
On such a night as this
Three layers of glass, inclusions of metallic particles (gold and platinum), wheel-engraved decoration, partially gilded engraving.
H. 13.3; Diam. 13.5 cm
© RMN-Grand Palais (Musée d'Orsay) / Jean Schormans

On such a night as this (detail)

Par une telle nuit [On such a night as this]

In June 1892, the Opéra Comique in Paris put on a series of performances of the Trojans at Carthage, an opera by Berlioz fiercely condemned on its opening night in 1863. Its rehabilitation was due to the Society for Great Musical Performances in France, whose president, the Countess Greffulhe, was also a client of Emile Gallé. It was thus easy for Gallé to have attended one of these performances, and he showed his enthusiasm in a letter to the Countess: "I owe you the most fulfilling experience of my life: hearing The Trojans by Berlioz [...] this cosmic, poignant work, which delights the soul with the grandeur of its ideas, its words and its resonances to the very limit of what we mortals can feel".
Two years later Gallé produced this cup and engraved under the foot: "On such a night as this…", an extract from the duet between Dido and Aeneas in the second act. Gallé was not trying to evoke the epic nights to which these two characters refer in their dialogue. The glassmaker wished to reflect the composition of a night where nothing came to disturb the harmonious and melodious beauty of Berlioz' music at this point in the score. Using his own art-form, he created a piece of glassware which in turn becomes an invocation of night, a uniformly blue night where, through a curtain of Virginia creeper, the stars and their reflections sparkle on the waters of a lake.

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