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Lalique fox mascot receive a $175,000 brush with fame

04 January 2012Written by Roland Arkell

HOLLYWOOD is currently casting a film titled Foxcatcher about the life of John Eleuthère DuPont (1938-2010), heir to the DuPont chemical fortune.

The film takes its name from Foxcatcher Farm, an 800-acre racing stable in Delaware County, Pennsylvania, that was both the last word in Mid-Atlantic privilege and the scene of the tragedy in 1997 that saw DuPont become the richest man ever to face murder charges in American history.

He died in prison in 2010.

But Foxcatcher could also allude to Dupont's passion for collecting foxes - hundreds of them in all mediums from folksy painted wood and Staffordshire pottery to cold-painted bronze, ivory and Meissen porcelain. Last year, Sotheby's and Wiederseim Associates of Chester Springs, Pennsylvania were invited by the estate attorney to conduct an appraisal of the contents.

The New York firm had taken their pick of the Foxcatcher Farm contents, but they declined to sell John E. DuPont's most personal (but undoubtedly kitschy) collection. Instead the dispersal of countless vulpine models, both fair and foul, fell to Wiederseim who conducted their annual Thanksgiving Weekend Auction at Ludwig's Corner Firehouse on November 26.

Hidden in plain sight among collectables lotted in multiples with prices from $100-1000 was a 3¼in high by 8½in long (8.25 x 21.5cm) frosted glass model of a leaping fox. Gillian Wiederseim told ATG: "When we catalogued this lot, I thought it looked like a Lalique car mascot, but since we could not find a signature, we assumed (incorrectly) it was a replica".

It was sold with another pressed moulded glass fox (approximate value $5) and three ceramic models that together would have struggled to justify the published estimate of $100-150.

But Reynard/Fox, model No.1182 is, in fact, among the rarest of all the Art Deco car mascots produced by René Lalique.

Following the creation of a car bonnet ornament for André Citroën in 1925 (the five prancing horses or Chevauxmascot made for the Citroën Cinq) a total of 27 different models were put into production - more if you include the one-off model of a running greyhound made in July 1929 for the future George VI, and some recent issues.

The official release date for Reynard was December 9, 1930, although the run must have been very small: before the appearance of this example only five were recorded. Furthermore, it seems no replicas of this model are known.

Some who viewed the sleeper online must have become very excited indeed, but the discovery was also picked up by a specialist Lalique website and soon Wiederseim began receiving inquiries from all over the world. The piece was unsigned, but seven phone bidders from the UK and USA, two bidders in the room and additional online bidders via LiveAuctioneers.com were confident it was right.

In the end, with bidding opening at $30,000, two phone bidders, both private collectors from the UK, left the competition behind at around $140,000 and took it up to $175,000 (£119,000) or $204,750 with the 17 per cent buyer's premium added. The price is thought to be a record for a Lalique car mascot.

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