When, in 1764, King Louis XV of France gave permission to found a glassworks factory in a little town called Baccarat in the Lorraine region of France, you wonder whether he realised the impact his decision would make. Sharon Carvalho finds out how Baccarat grew to become a symbol of exquisite craftsmanship and French Art de Vivre
At the conclusion of Charles X’s visit to Lorraine in 1828, Baccarat presented this clear crystal
cut-glass pitcher to the dauphin, Louis de Bourbon. It is decorated with the arms of France and Navarre, rendered in gold and polychrome enamel. The shields display the three fleurs-de-lis of France, the chains of Navarre, and the collars of the Orders of Saint-Michel and the Saint-Esprit, as well as the interlaced double ‘L’ emblem and the royal crown.
Starting in 1832, Baccarat acquired and developed the site ‘30 bis, rue de Paradis’, near the ‘Garede l’Est’ train station. The House of Baccarat converted the premises into its company headquarters and into a sales space that included a large showroom for displaying its creations. A museum was founded there in the 1960s.
Universal Exposition, Paris, 1855. A successor to various national exhibitions of French industrial production and the 1851 Universal Exposition in London, the 1855 Universal Exposition in Paris was an opportunity for Baccarat to introduce an array of distinctive pieces to the public. Among the monumental creations displayed, these two towering vases of white agate ‘pâte-de-riz’ glass with vegetal motifs in chrysoprase agate glass overwhelmed visitors just as much as they impressed Emperor Napoléon III. At the conclusion of this major exhibition, a jury awarded Baccarat the Grand Medal of Honor in the glassware and ceramics category.
Study of the ‘Coupe CDC 53’ candelabrum with eighteen candles and triple-backed crystal (clear crystal, white opal, red crystal, and emerald crystal), c.1855
Study of a ‘traditional chandelier, LT 132’ in sky blue opaline crystal furnished with thirty branches for candles in twisted clear crystal, from the Baccarat archives, c. 1858. This project corresponds to a sky blue opaline
crystal chandelier crafted for the Dolmabahçe Palace, where it adorns an audience chamber.
Universal Exposition, Paris, 1867. Constructed on the Champ de Mars, the second Universal Exposition in Paris was notable for the lavishness of the European pavilions and the participation of Asian and Far Eastern countries. The Baccarat manufactory presented its remarkable pieces in an ambitious setting. Set around a crystal fountain almost twenty-five feet high stood a pair of covered vases fashioned from clear crystal and lined with ruby red crystal. Majestic candelabra and chandeliers paid tribute to the genius of Baccarat’s master glassworkers. Baccarat mined the entire repertoire of the decorative arts to display its designs to best advantage. The manufactory received the Grand Prize, and its director, Émile Godard-Desmarest, was awarded the ‘Légion d’Honneur’.
Glassworkers, Baccarat manufactory, interior view of the furnace room, 1887. As early as the 1830s, Baccarat’s managers took initiatives that reflected a sense of industrial paternalism. They instituted enlightened social policies and health measures that later earned the firm a Grand Prize at the 1889 Universal Exposition in Paris. From father to son, generations of elite artisans succeeded one another in the manufactory’s furnace rooms. Women were employed in increasing numbers beginning in the 1860s; they most frequently exercised their skills in the cool rooms.
Caliph’s Staircase, a monumental chandelier in Dolmabahçe Palace, Istanbul, c. 1870. In the mid-nineteenth century, Sultan Abdülmecid began the construction of the Dolmabahçe Palace in Constantinople in order to showcase the modernity and wealth of his Ottoman Empire. Sultan Abdülaziz commissioned from Baccarat a large number of monumental chandeliers in clear and red crystal enhanced with gold, which are particularly remarkable for their bobèches in the form of stylized tulips, the symbol of the Turkish Empire. The chandeliers were intended to furnish the Dolmabahçe Palace from the entry hall to the Blue Hall, passing by the “Caliph’s Staircase” to arrive at the Red Chamber, the ceremonial room of the Harem.
Visit of the shah of Persia to the Baccarat boutique on the Rue de Paradis in Paris, 1905. In 1905, the shah of Persia visited the Baccarat boutique on Rue de Paradis, demonstrating the rich and enduring relationship between Baccarat and the Persian kingdom. These ties are evidenced by the numerous Persian commissions for services of glassware and lighting fixtures.
Vase known as ‘du Negus’, presented at the International Exhibition of Eastern France, Nancy, 1909. The body of this monumental vase, 5 1/2 feet high, is fashioned from pieces of cut crystal, framed and held together by carved gilt-bronze elements. Baccarat designed this model and produced two versions of it for the International Exhibition of Eastern France. Awed by the magnificence of these creations, Menelik II, the negus (ruler) of Abyssinia, bought one of the vases for himself.
Service known as ‘The Czar’s’, 1909. Designed at the beginning of the twentieth century for Nicholas II, ‘The Czar’s’, service in clear crystal lined with colored crystal is truly spectacular. The glasses feature long stems, scalloped bases, and a decoration of cut-glass ‘bezels’ and palmettes. Offered in a choice of six colors, this remarkable ensemble won the admiration of many aristocratic patrons, as well as the imperial court. Crafted solely by the ‘Meilleurs Ouvriers de France’, this service remains in Baccarat’s current catalogue.
Pair of flasks from the ‘Malmaison’ service made for HSH Prince Rainier and HSH Princess Grace of Monaco, 1956. In honor of the marriage of His Serene Highness Prince Rainier III, the manufactory reissued this pair of flasks in 1956. They were originally from the ‘Malmaison’ service, created in 1913. These Empirestyle flasks are gilded with fine gold and decorated with the newlyweds’ monograms.
UNICEF ‘Crystal Snowflake New York’, Ingo Maurer, 2004. Shining in the heart of New York City at Fifty-seventh Street and Fifth Avenue, the UNICEF Snowflake is a special symbol for the world’s most vulnerable children. It hangs as a reminder of UNICEF’s commitment to reach a day when no child dies from preventable causes. Renowned lighting designer Ingo Maurer designed it in collaboration with Baccarat, as the largest outdoor chandelier, containing 16,000 individual Baccarat crystal prisms. It is 23 feet wide and over 28 feet tall, and weighs more than 3,300 pounds.
Mille Nuitscandelabrum, Mathias, 2012. The collection Mille Nuits, conceived by the designer Mathias, is the unique expression of an Orient revisited. It evokes the baroque sophistication of Persian tales. The Venetian style and the shallowly cut beveling evoke the folds of fabrics in the palaces of the ‘Thousand and One Nights’.
The ‘Zénith Alvorada’ chandelier, from the Fusion collection holds twenty-four lights, and is made of crystal and bamboo. It is a limited edition piece with only fifty available. Fernando and Umberto ampana, 2013.