Portrait of Emile Gallé by Victor Prouvé ca. 1892
Enter the Lampe Chauve Souris or bat Lamp.
Gallé Bat Lamp: sold Sotheby's NY, 12/6/02 ($77,625)
The look is at once decadent, perhaps sinister but captures the artistic sensibilities of fin-de-siecle France. Gallé was captivated by the natural world and his attachment to Symbolist poets like the notoriously eccentric Count Robert de Montesquiou is clearly evoked in this lamp. The work itself is not really about function but more about creating a mood, cloaking the scientific austerity of modern technology in the rich orange-amber glow of a night sky with occult overtones.
Gallé Bat Lamp: sold Christie's London, 5/4/07 ($119,160)
Very few of these lamps were produced owing to their subject matter and thus a scant handful are known to us today. This rarity of course affects the price. The two versions above are fairly similar and were on the market in the past decade. I for one am eager to see the larger version of this model in the flesh as the last known example has not been seen since it was on the block at Sotheby's in 1978 (see below).
The base is highly realized Art Nouveau without being excessive and is not as rigid as the other examples. The theme is essentially the same but the base adds another layer with its eerily creeping poppy pod. Gallé is clearly referencing the opium poppy's ancient associations with sleep, intoxication and death. The lamp is the perfect manifestation of late 19th century decadence but done in an intelligently fluid manner. Some may find it dark and creepy but it is an unabashed personal favorite... Happy haunting.