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Gabriel Argy-Rousseau Pâte de Verre "Prairie" Night Light

Argy-Rousseau's near-unique ability to gracefully soften the starkness of Art Deco design without ever sacrificing the strength of the design is on full display in this remarkable, petite masterpiece. Gabriel Argy-Rousseau was born in Meslay-le-Vidame, a small village in Beauce. His childhood was spent contemplating the great expanses of seemingly endless plains under low skies. Later in his life, Argy Rousseau photographed the fields of his childhood, stretching before the silhouette of the small village chapel. His “Prairie” design combines the sharp charcoal blades of the foxtail millet and the bright red blooms of the field poppy. To farmers, the poppy was a weed to be extirpated. As the first step in the millet harvest process, poppies were hand-pulled. Care was taken so that the seeds did not fall to the ground, thereby exacerbating their presence in the coming harvest season. The Art Nouveau movement enjoyed using flowering weeds for their symbolic meaning, as nature’s version of femme fatale, weeds provided beauty and danger in equal measure. The shade rests in a round cast-iron footed base decorated with a triangle frieze, and three pointed feet.

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  • Curator's Notes

Item #: YEL-21236
Artist: Gabriel Argy-Rousseau
Country: France
Circa: 1926
Dimensions: 5.5" height, 3.375" diameter.
Materials: Pâte de verre, translucent glass, Wrought Iron
Signed: G. Argy-Rousseau
Literature: Bloch-Dermant Janine Gabriel Argy-Rousseau and Yves Delaborde. 1991. G. Argy-Rousseau : Glassware As Art : With a Catalogue Raisonné of the Pâtes De Verre. London: Thames and Hudson. p.210

The shape of this nightlight was based on Egyptian head cones, perfumed cones of beeswax originally believed to slowly melt and perfume the hair of elite Egyptian women. Argy Rousseau was fascinated with ancient Egyptian aesthetics and the history of perfume. Early in his career, Argy Rousseau designed perfume bottles for Maison Franck. Additionally, he marketed many of his night lights as perfume-burning night lights. Combining historical references and florals epitomized the modernity of Art Deco design, pushing pastiche ornament into the realm of geometric abstraction.