In Nature’s temple living pillars rise,
And words are murmured none have understood,
And man must wander through a tangled wood
Of symbols watching him with friendly eyes.
The Best is the Enemy of the Good
The constant need to create something new makes us sometimes forget the rules of taste and aesthetics. Have we not witnessed before, people raving about this nonsense: a green rose! A green rose is not a rose, it is a Brussels sprout.
This desire to innovate, based on commercial requirements, would eventually cause the undoing of nature’s charm, replacing grace with stiffness. Out of this flower called violet, we make a wallflower and we rejoice.
Thus we can see one of our excellent and distinguished colleagues in the horticultural press write the following odd lines, about the bearing of one of the most graceful plants: “If I have one criticism to make about the genus Fuchsia, it would be about the pendulous, ‘tear-drop’ shape of the flowers, which means that we can see them only from underneath, making them unsuitable for bouquets.” Hence, he advocates an old form Fuchsia erecta of which he gives a sample. “Look at these massive rods, swollen, abnormal, these stiff stems, called ‘made of iron’, then you will get a sense of what, sometimes, disturbed by intensive farming, nature had done so well to be seen from the bottom up.” The florist Garo “can obtain something ugly with one of the most beautiful, the most dainty floral arrangements, these tiny threaded bells, these coral and garnet pendants, these ‘earrings’ as pointed out by our good friend Carrière.” Little did he know just how right he was when the famous Parisian jeweller, Lucien Falize, created those earrings one day, with rubies and diamonds, the most exquisite ornaments, for the ears of a princess of the Arabian Nights.
The horticultural selector needs a natural taste originating from a sincere admiration, to be passionate of natural masterpieces. His role is not to alter, to distort in a counteraesthetic way to unbalance ungracefully the natural characteristics of a genre, but to exalt only those that are decorative, stylish, and to bring them to their supreme beauty. The sower of fruit who would make the other earring, this delightful gem, out of a cherry, from the branch to the lips, an artificial fruit, set up on a tight wire, would it not deserve to be hanged on its tree?
Fortunately, the public is resistant to certain innovations. See how happily they discovered again in the exhibitions, among the collections, natural and simple shapes. Also, the Fuchsia erecta does not scare us. For a long time it will not take down the nice ‘earrings’ that embellish our windows and balconies.
The Symbolic Décor
Acceptance speech delivered at the Académie de Stanislas in the public session of 17 May 1900 and printed in the “Mémoires de cette Compagnie” in the seventeenth book of the fifth series, for Émile Gallé’s election as a member of the Académie de Stanislas in 1891:
At the very moment when I came here to thank the Académie de Stanislas for the honour it has bestowed upon me by public admission, I am aware of what I owe you for the hospitality: almost ten years!
My mentors have not been too harsh towards the parsimony of my contribution to their works. And I am only too well aware of your patience, as well as of the insufficiency of my credentials compared to your favours.
These delays, simply tolerated by you, deprive me today of joy. Two friends who were my guarantors with you are missing – Jules Lejeune and Pastor Othon Cuvier are no longer with us. I mention these two noble persons, not out of vanity, but I appreciate that by welcoming a craftsman too superficial in his various experiments, you paid credit to the good judgement of these two valued men, both of them being paragons through the light of their charity, their tolerance of any sincere belief, and their honourable zeal to unite men in appreciation, study, and peace.
They only had to alleviate a little my anxieties and doubts, not about your kindness, but about myself. My commitment to our Academy dates far back to my youth, to the days of annual sessions, these ancient and good Thursdays in May when my classmates from high school in Nancy, Hubert Zæpfell and the angelic Paul Seigneret, two pure victims, picked us up from the joys of the noisy Institution Leopold to come and listen, in this royal decor, to the Lacroix, the Margeries, the Burnoufs, the Benoîts, the Godrons, the Lombards, the Vollands, and the Duchênes.
Our young humanities savoured the indulgence of a generous science, of an Atticism, pretty as the golden Jean Lamour guipure. Who would have thought that the mediocre student of the best masters ever would one day dare to present, here, in front of many, a belated French essay?
This task will find favour, I hope, more easily thanks to the choice of a familiar theme in my usual work. It might be more sincere and more significant. Hence it is from a composing decorator, an image assembler, who requires voice this time, who wants to talk to you about the symbolism in the decor.
Imagining themes that are specific to coating lines, shapes, shades, thoughts, the decoration of our homes and the objects of utility or pure pleasure, adapting its purpose in a material-specific way to metal or wood, marble or fabric; it is, without any doubt, an absorbing occupation. But it is actually more serious, the consequences grave, which the creator of the adornments usually does not suspect.
Each implementation of human effort, however minute the overall result may be, is summed up in the gesture of the sower, sometimes an awe-inspiring gesture. However, per chance or intentionally, the designer, too, acts as the sower. He plants a field, the decor, devoted to a special culture, the decor, to tools, to some workmen, to germs, to special crops.
Because among the ornaments that arise from his conventional issues, the most humble as the most exalted ones can one day become elements in this compelling documentary ensemble: the decorative style of an era. Indeed, any creation of art is conceived and born under influences, amidst the atmosphere of reverie and the most customary volition of the artist. It is there, in any case, that his work arises from. Regardless of his consent, his concerns are like a newborn for godmothers, good fairies, or witches, who cast evil spells or confer magical gifts.
The work will bear the indelible mark of cogitation, a passionate habit of mind. It synthesises a symbol in the unconscious, in the depth. Some Asian rugs contain, amongst the frame and the wools, a silky female hair, that is the personal branding of the task performed, such as a faded ribbon in a closed book reveals the page meditated upon, preferred, the page sometimes interrupted forever.
Thus, the designer intermingles into his book something of himself. Later on, we unravel the skein; we will find the blanched hair, the dried tears – making the autographs of Marceline Valmore often unreadable – and exhale something inaudible or the sigh of weariness and disgust for the involuntary and repulsive task, or the manly satisfecit of the poet:
Oh night, friendly night, desired by the one
Whose arms, truthfully, can say today
We have worked!
See more on Émile Gallé’s works here:
To get a better insight into the Émile Gallé, continue this exciting adventure by clicking on Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon Australia, Amazon French, Amazon German, Amazon Mexico, Amazon Italy, Amazon Spain, Amazon Canada, Amazon Brazil, Amazon Japan, Amazon India, Parkstone International, Ebook Gallery, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, Google, Apple, Overdrive, Ellibs, Scribd, Bookbeat, bol.com