The circa 1920 French art glass Wisteria lamp by Emile Galle set a world record when it brought $331,500 at Christie’s New York.


WHAT: Louis Comfort Tiffany was not the only Art Nouveau master of making artistic glass lamps. Less known, yet as much a glass genius as LCT and Tiffany Studios, French glass artist Emile Galle created sublime pieces of etched and wheel-cut art glass. By the time he died in 1904, his glass, particularly early works, was considered the standard to beat.

Early this month, a two-piece Galle lamp measuring 30 inches high, with a 20.5-inch diameter shade intricately decorated in the Wisteria pattern, sold for $331,500 at Christie’s, setting a new world record for Galle glass.

MORE: A student of horticulture and botany, Galle built layers of differently colored glass into his vases and decorative pieces so that floral designs with subtle variations of color were revealed. The technique is known as cameo glass.

SMART COLLECTORS KNOW: Emile Galle’s legacy involves both studio and commercial output. Much of the latter, produced at a glass factory/studio in Nancy, France, was made for export to the U.S.

Signed with a Japanese-style “Galle,” pieces consist of all types of decorative forms including art glass lamps made in varied themes such as peonies, cherries, roses, clematis and more.

HOT TIP: Galle did not design his output. Hiring glass masters to execute, he supervised and directed. Following his death, his wife and son-in-law managed the commercial arm of the studio. All original Galle production stopped in 1914.

BOTTOM LINE: In Galle glass, more layers of glass equal more value. The artistry of this lamp plus the fact that it came from a known, curated collection boosted the bottom line.

CAVEAT: Galle glass has been widely copied and faked. Most is easy to spot, but some reproductions can fool. Buy only from a reliable source.