Les Hommes noirs (The dark men)

Title: 
Les Hommes noirs (The dark men)

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Object Name: 
Vase
Title: 
Les Hommes noirs (The dark men)
Place Made: 
Accession Number: 
2011.3.1
Dimensions: 
(a) Vase H: 38.1 cm, Diam (max): 32.1 cm
Location: 
On Display
Date: 
1900
Credit Line: 
Purchased in part with funds from the Houghton Endowment Fund; James B. Flaws and Marcia D. Weber; Daniel Greenberg, Susan Steinhauser, and The Greenberg Foundation in honor of Natalie G. Heineman and Ben W. Heineman Sr.; James R. and Maisie Houghton; Ben W. Heineman Sr. Family; E. Marie McKee and Robert Cole Jr.; Elizabeth S. and Carl H. Pforzheimer III; and Wendell P. Weeks and Kim Frock Weeks
Web Description: 
In January 1899, the celebrated glassmaker Emile Gallé was immersed in preparations for the 1900 world’s fair in Paris. There, he planned to present his glass in five locations, one of which was a display inspired by a Symbolist fairy tale. For this display, he called on his childhood friend, the painter Victor Prouvé, to help him design a vase that would expose “fanaticism, hatred, lies, prejudice, and hypocrisy.” Like the fairy tale, the display had a double meaning. It presented decorated glass vessels with a controversial political message, for those who cared to see it. Prouvé’s design shows dark, monstrous creatures, rising from the depths of the earth, which illustrate the evils of false accusation and anti-Semitism. One is a crone-faced, bat-winged creature with a tail made of snakes. On the back of the vase, a wavy-haired youth, representing truth, looks out with a hurt expression. The play of darkness and light in glass was often used by Gallé to symbolize humanity’s struggle between good and evil. Visitors to the Paris world’s fair, who were aware of current events, would have known that the decoration on this vase— and on several others presented by Gallé—referred to the Dreyfus Affair, one of the most divisive scandals in modern French history. This political, judicial, and social scandal, which surrounded a French Jewish military officer named Alfred Dreyfus (1859–1935), involved a wrongful conviction of treason and a subsequent cover-up that divided French society for over a decade. Gallé never wavered in his support for Dreyfus, which caused him trouble in his conservative hometown of Nancy. Signed “Gallé 1900” and “V. Prouvé.” The vase was kept by Gallé for his personal collection, and it was last owned by the family of Jean Bourgogne (1903–1999), Gallé’s only grandson. A second, unfinished version of Les Hommes noirs is preserved in the Musée de l’Ecole de Nancy, Nancy, France (inv. no. JC15). Inscribed, on rim, “Hommes noirs, d’où sortez vous?” (Dark men, where do you come from?), and, on body, “Nous sortons de dessous terre” (We come from beneath the earth), and “Béranger” for Pierre-Jean de Béranger (French, 1780–1857), whose well-known political chanson of 1819 was the source of the quotation. The reference to “dark men” here alludes to the black robes worn by French lawyers and judges. Published in Dominique Jarrassé and Mohammad Handjani, “Les Hommes noirs, un vase parlant d’Emile Gallé et Victor Prouvé,” Le Pays Lorrain, v. 91, March 2011, pp. 21–29; François Parmentier, “Gallé le Dreyfusard,” Arts Nouveaux, Association des Amis du Musée de l’Ecole de Nancy (AAMEN), no. 22, September 2006, pp. 24–29; and Philippe Thiébaut, Emile Gallé: Le Magicien du verre, Paris: Gallimard, 2004, pp. 56–57.
Department: 
Provenance: 
Bourgogne, Jean, Former Collection
1900
to
2009
Handjani, Mohammad, Source
2009
to
2011-01-26
Color: 
Inscription: 
Béranger
inscription
Engraved (a) lower body
Nous sortons de dessous terre.
inscription
Inscribed in relief-cut letters (a) body
Hommes noirs, dóū sotez-vous?”
inscription
Inscribed in relief-cut letters (a) neck
Hommes noirs, d’où sortez vous?
inscription
(b) floor of interior
Victor Prouvé / 1900
signature
(b) floor of interior
Emile Gallé / 1900
signature
(b) floor of interior
V. Prouvé
signature
Engraved (a) lower body
Gallé 1900
signature
Engraved (a) lower body
Primary Description: 
(a) Blown and cased glass, cut, acid-etched, marqueterie, engraved, polished, applied silver stain, handles. Yellowish (manganese) and brown (hyalith) glasses, copper inclusions, blown, cased, acid-etched, cut, and engraved; applied silver stain and handles. Vase with wide rim, constricted neck, spherical body, circular base, and two applied handles. Transparent yellowish glass cased with a layer of dark brown glass, then with a layer of lighter brown glass, and finally with a layer of dark brown glass, the brown glass cut away with acid and wheel to leave the decorated areas and inscription. Copper inclusions (appearing bright blue) in handles and on body. On one side of the vase are two large engraved lilies, colored opaque yellow with silver stain. Traces of the silver stain appear on other areas of the vase. Engraved details of the decorative figures and flower were applied last. The interior of the vase is acid-etched. Because the decoration of the vase is accompanied by a quotation, it is one of Gallé’s “talking vases,” or vase parlant. Inscribed in relief-cut letters: “Hommes noirs, d’où sortez vous?” and “Nous sortons de dessous terre.” (“Dark men, where do you come from? “We come from beneath the earth.”) Engraved inscription: “Béranger” for Pierre-Jean de Béranger (French, 1780–1857), the source of the quotation. Engraved signatures: “Gallé 1900,” and “V. Prouvé”. (b) Custom-made case with hinged walls and top. Orange leather exterior; ivory suede and silk interior. Floor of interior inscribed: "Emile Gallé / 1900", "Hommes noirs, d’où sortez vous?", "Victor Prouvé / 1900".
Shaping History: Looking at the Past and Present in Glass (2013) illustrated, p. 183, #8; BIB# 135186
The Corning Museum of Glass Annual Report 2011 (2012) illustrated, pp. 5, 7, 9;
The Corning Museum of Glass: Notable Acquisitions 2011 (2012) illustrated, cover, pp. 44-47; BIB# AI87745
Jurors' Choice (New Glass Review 33) (2012) illustrated, p. 83; BIB# AI87132
Notes: Corning Museum Makes Major Additions to Glass, Library Collections (2012) illustrated, cover, frontispiece; BIB# AI92535
Les Hommes noirs, un vase parlant d’Emile Gallé et Victor Prouvé (2011-03) illustrated, pp. 21-30; cover; BIB# AI88875
Le verre: art & design, XIXe-XXIe siècles (2011) illustrated, v. 2, p. 133 (bottom left); BIB# 128311
Emile Galle: le magicien du verre (2004) illustrated, p. 56-57 (center); BIB# 81538
Galle, le testament artistique (2004) p. 99 (fig. 16); BIB# 81903
Emile Galle (1978) p. 80; BIB# 30033