A practical guide to Galle furniture.

Emile Galle is known over the globe for his glass and to a lesser extent for his furniture. In this article I will explain the differences between the three types of furniture as made by Galle.

Emile Galle was born in Nancy in France on May 4th 1846. His parents owned  a famous shop in Nancy specialised in crystal and porcelain. They ordered crystal from Burgun and Schverer in Meisenthal and porcelain from different firms throughout France. On their own premises they decorated the objects, by cutting and engraving the crystal or painting the porcelain. The firm employed about 20 workmen in 1873 and were amongst others supplier of the emperor Napoleon III, of which they were very proud.  

This proves to say that Emile Galle was born into a wealthy and highly succesful family. He was offered the opportunity to travel and study as he liked. He fell in love with nature and formed his own botanical collection. In the botanical garden in Nancy, which still exists, he studied the flora of all seasons. He furthermore grew all kinds of rare specimens in the family garden.

His scientific knowledge and the love for nature can be found back in the pieces he made in wood and glass. His talent was recognised by his father Charles Galle when he was appointed artistic director of the firm in 1867.


One of the earliest Bedroomcabinets made by Galle. Straight lines with a little carving and marquetrie of the iris flower.


In the beginning, his first period, he was influenced by different other styles. A mixture of styles : Renaissance, Louis xv, Rococo and others, a historic mixture showing the first small signs with Art Nouveau characteristics. 1885-1895

In 1885 Emile Galle started to work with wood. like with his glass objects he drew the design himself, decided on what kind of wood would be used, managed the production, examined the first try-outs and finally under his instructions his labour manufactured the piece. 


Rare chair. The lower part is typical Elzas, 18th and 19th century, the top part is typical art nouveau. Notice the thistle flower on top.
The national flower of Lorraine.


The first pieces of furniture produced were smaller pieces. Small tables and pedestals just to place a vase on. As Emile Galle explained himself, he was dissatisfied with the presentation of his vases during exhibitions. This was the reason for him to start producing his own furniture. The glass vase with the pedestal on which it was displayed was then in complete harmony.


One of the earliest signatures. Full name and town. Emile Galle, Nancy.  Later on they use just “Galle”.


Furniture from this period has very little carving. The marquetery is sometimes coloured to get a better effect, which was later on abandoned.  Subtle reds and green just to highlight a flower or a leaf.  His signature in this period is hot-branded or engraved: Emile Galle Nancy. The types of wood he used were domestic types such as oak, nut and fruitwood.  The scenes on the tables could be historical like that of Jeanne D’arc. Or scenes of Lorraine, the rooster or the thistle, the national flowers of the province Lorraine.


Small unusual “bonheur du jour” for letters and papers. Marqueterie with flowers and butterflies. Galle loved butterflies.


Or just ordinary flowers and birds from the region. In this period you would sometimes find short lines of text included  in the marqueterie. On the vases this has a name: “verrerie parlante” - Talking glass. For woodwork there is no such expression. Most of the work is signed, except bedchambers and chairs.


Detail of the butterflies*/ >

  • 29-7-2008

Comments (4)

Peter
Said this on 19-12-2008 At 08:00 am
I can only ever dream of owning such beautiful objects, but articles such as this allow me to appreciate the genius of Galle and the craftsmen and women who worked for him.
John Samuel
Said this on 6-11-2009 At 09:40 am
A clear and concise introduction to Galle furniture, featuring excellent photographs.
Christine Proctor
Said this on 19-1-2010 At 05:44 pm
This was a very helpful description of the different time periods as it relates to design and signatures.
Barbara Bryant
Said this on 30-3-2010 At 03:03 am
An excellent, excellent article. It answers several questions I have had for quite some time.

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