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Gabriel Argy-Rousseau Pâte de Verre "Fruits et Feuilles" 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. Argy Rousseau's Fruits et Feuilles nightlight draws its inspiration from the foliate and floriate motifs found in medieval marginalia. The berries depicted in the piece are likely strawberries, a fruit revered as a symbol of the Virgin Mary's purity and righteousness. Their tripartite leaves symbolize the Trinity, their fruits represent drops of Christ's blood, and the five petals of their pure white flowers serve as reminders of the five wounds of the Passion. A resurgence of interest in the Medieval era and Gothic architecture was spurred by literary trends in the early nineteenth century, particularly by Victor Hugo's "Notre-Dame de Paris." This novel gained instant and immense popularity, inspiring artists from various mediums to create illustrations. Salon painters, lithographers, book illustrators, caricaturists, and later, photographers, all sought to portray scenes from the novel or capture the essence of the cathedral itself. Images from "Notre-Dame de Paris" became widely accessible and known to individuals of all strata of French society, solidifying Notre-Dame Cathedral's status as a national icon.

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  • Curator's Notes

Item #: YEL-21259
Artist: Gabriel Argy-Rousseau
Country: France
Circa: 1924
Dimensions: 5.75" height, 3.875" diameter.
Materials: Pâte de verre, translucent glass, Wrought Iron
Signed: "G. Argy Rousseau" and "FRANCE"
Literature: Janine Bloch-Dermant, G. Argy-Rousseau, Catalogue Raisonné, London 1990, no. 24.13

Gabriel Rousseau adopted the suffix 'Argy' in honor of his wife Marianne Argyriadès. She was his best friend's sister. They all shared a love of Greco-Roman and Egyptian antiquity. Argy-Rousseau was interested in many things, studied at the École de Sèvres, but also completed an engineering degree. Throughout his life, he conducted research in areas as diverse as dental porcelain and color photography. In his private life he always surrounded himself with creative personalities, including Henri Cros, who had long been known for his glass works using the 'pâte-de-verre' technique. Argy-Rousseau began to work successfully with the material even before the First World War, after the war he founded a glass factory that had 20 employees at its peak. He developed his own technique for producing his ideas: Argy-Rousseau first modeled his sketched idea in plaster, which was then covered with wax. A refractory hollow mold consisting of several parts was then molded from this model in several work steps. He even produced his own glass. It was crushed into powder and colored by the addition of metal oxides. With the help of fine brushes, the now liquid glass mass, which had been washed several times, was applied precisely to the walls of the refractory mould. Two more layers followed, one after the other, to create strength and at the same time prevent air bubbles from forming. The last layer was resin to further fix the pate de verre. The model was then placed upside down in a wood-fired oven, where the piece was then fired at high temperatures. After cooling, the mold was removed, the now solid object cleaned with acid and the last bumps polished off with a wheel. This is how these wonderful, transparent, at the same time colorful, delicate-looking objects came into being.