Portieux Art Deco Crystal Vase:
From the Greek Gods to the Great War

French Art Deco Crystal “Envol” vase by PortieuxThis French Art Deco Crystal “Envol” vase by Portieux, available in amber, amethyst (pictured), and colorless crystal at the Galleria, is a piece with a particularly interesting back-story. Not only does a tale from Greek mythology hide behind the design, but the history of Portieux glassworks has ties to both World War I and World War II.

Wings of Icarus

The “Evol” vase features the wings of Icarus as the focus of the design, located towards the top of the piece. Icarus is a well-known tragic character in Greek mythology. Exiled along with his father on the island of Crete, Icarus wished to flee captivity. In order to escape, Icarus’s father, Daedalus, famous for his craftsmanship, constructed wax wings for him and his son to use for flying off the island.

Before they departed, Daedalus warned his son not to fly too close to the sun, as the high temperatures would melt the wax. Excited by his new ability to fly and plagued by the thoughtlessness of youth, Icarus flew too close to the sun and ended up falling into the ocean, now known as the Icarian Sea. The “Envol” vase beautifully depicts the wings of Icarus in frosted glass towards the top of the piece, and also features the blazing sun behind him.

Watch a video portraying the mythological story:

Portieux glass works

The Porteiux glass works, responsible for producing this beautiful work of art, opened in 1705. Duke Leopold of Lorraine gave Francois Magnien, his long time apprentice, the right and funds to open the glass works in Northeastern France.

In 1870 another French glass works by the name of Vallerysthal was experiencing problems. According to Glass, Art Nouveau to Art Deco by Victor Arwas, once the Germans invaded France, the area where Vallerysthal was located became German territory. Since most of their consumers were in France, Vallerysthal now found it difficult to export their glass and profit decreased. In order to regain costumers, Vallerysthal decided to buy the Portieux glass works so that it would be easier to export their pieces into France.

Surviving multiple border changes

After the merger, a new name was given to the company, and it existed in both French and German languages as “Verreries Reuniers de Vallerysthal et Portieux” and “Vereingte Glashutten Von Vallerysthal und Portieux.” The company switched back and forth between French and German rule after repeated changes in boundary lines due to political conflicts.

After the First World War, the company had returned to French rule. The company flourished, making pieces influenced by nature with an emphasis on bird motifs (as reflected by the “Envol” vase).

After World War II, the company began to experience problems. It was forced to close in 1977 but then reopened in 1986. After joining the French Crystal Company, writes Victor Arwas, the Portieux glass works went bankrupt. Finally, in 1996 Groupe Faience Niderviller bought the company. Even after all of the changes these two companies have experienced, the names Portieux and Vallerysthal are still well-known in the antique glass and trading worlds.

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