George’s ‘Royal Blue’
PRINCE’S ORIGINAL LALIQUE GLASS MASCOT RESURFACES AFTER 70 YEARS
Prince George, Duke of Kent, was the fourth son of King George V and Queen Mary, making him an unlikely heir to the throne but placing him squarely in the spotlight of royal family events during England’s Art Deco years, which took on a sharper edge as the country declared war in 1939.
The prince (1902-1942) was a textbook royal in every respect. Perennially handsome and immaculately dressed to be seen at all the right places and with (mostly) the right people. Had he lived today, George would likely have appeared on the cover of The National Enquirer with some regularity, but the foggy atmosphere of the day kept much of his life out of the press.
The royals have always loved sports, particularly those involving the chase, and George’s penchant ran to greyhound racing. He was a regular at “the dogs,” often accompanied by his brother, the future king. Prince George also loved cars with a passion, so his choice of automobile mascot was almost pre-destined.
The circumstances that brought René Lalique and the prince together are not clear, but George was a frequent visitor to Paris and the Lalique Company had a tradition of presenting glass to European crowned heads between the wars, including a spectacular table service presented to the visiting royal family in 1938.
All original Lalique glass mascots are rare, and some immensely so, but the “Royal Blue,” created in 1929 and known in the Lalique archives as “Levrier 1” (Greyhound 1) is the only bespoke mascot made to commission and not put into commercial production. Named for its distinctive royal color achieved by Lalique’s innovative use of a blue light filter fitted in the custom mounting, the mascot is designed to be illuminated on an automobile’s prominent radiator cap. Imagine that speeding through the English countryside in 1930. The “levrier” is likely inspired by the most famous racing greyhound of all time, Mick the Miller, who made headlines during a brief racing career that began with a record-breaking run at the English Greyhound Derby in 1929.
The commission is recorded in the British magazine The Studio in 1931 and in Lalique Company archives, which retained a plaster master mold now on display in the Corning Museum of Glass in Corning, N.Y. Until recently, this was the only record of the mascot, the original thought to be lost, perhaps during the war when the prince himself was lost, prematurely, in an RAF plane over Scotland.
Seventy years later, the Royal Blue resurfaced, discovered in an obscure location in India. Last year, it found a new home in California, thanks to the combined efforts of Heritage offices in Dallas, Hong Kong and New York.
The new owner, entrepreneur Gerard Smith, is a consummate collector, widely respected for his meticulous curating of early American currency and, in recent years, the mascots of René Lalique. The Royal Blue is not just rare. It is a once-in-a-lifetime find, giving its owner the unique opportunity to collect a “full set” of Lalique car mascots, totaling 30 in all. Smith has secured the most coveted prize in Lalique automobilia, and perhaps in all Lalique glass sculpture. We are confident, under Gerard’s stewardship, that the Royal Blue will continue its journey with the respect and admiration it so clearly deserves.
NICHOLAS DAWES, vice president of special collections at Heritage Auctions, is a noted Lalique expert who authored the standard work on Lalique in 1986 and, 30 years later, the standard work Bespoke Mascots. He assisted in finding a new home for the Royal Blue.