Although Émile Gallé (1846-1904) is best known for his art nouveau glass, which he produced in the province of Lorraine in his native France, he was also a significant contributor to furniture design of the late 19th century. Throughout his youth Gallé was amazed by flowers and plants and used his natural talents as an artist to draw and study the flora. Gallé inherited his father’s faience factory, where he began designing new patterns based off of his drawings. Faience pottery refers to a style of earthenware vessels which are highly decorated with floral designs and were very was popular throughout Western Europe at the time. Upon inheriting the factory, Gallé also began producing highly embellished art nouveau furniture. Although Gallé was not a furniture maker, he designed original floral marquetry patterns and applied them to furniture as the final step in furniture production.
Marquentry is the art of applying thin pieces of differently colored wood (referred to as veneer) in a decorative pattern to the flat surfaces of wooden furniture. Gallé hired artisans to help carve pieces of veneer so they would fit together like a jigsaw puzzle, creating intricate designs that embellished furniture and helped further develop the art nouveau style for which Gallé’s furniture is famous. Émile Gallé glassworks and faience are popular items at auction and typically realize several thousand Euros. Gallé furniture appears at auction less often but fetches much, much more than his other works. The walnut table pictured above realized $20,000 at Sotheby’s, New York on 17 March 2010.
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