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Rene Lalique Architecture: The Imperial Family of Asaka, Rene Lalique Glass, and The Tokyo Metropolitan Teien Art Museum

Rene Lalique Architectural Door Panels In the Tokyo Metropolitan Teien Art Museum: How did they get there?

Tokyo Teien Museum with Rene Lalique Glass

The short version is, they were shipped by boat:), but as usual the whole story is a bit more complicated! We’ll try and keep it brief as usual.

In 1852, Meiji the Great, destined to be the 122nd Emperor of Japan was born with the name Mutsuhito. His birth was less than a year before Admiral Perry would arrive on the scene. In 1867 at the age of 14, he became Emperor of Japan. He had no children with his wife, but had 15 kids with 5 different official consorts. Only five of his children survived childhood. The one of the five we are interested in is Princess Nobuko, the eighth daughter of the Emperor. In 1910 she married the royal Prince Yasuhiko, also an eighth child, who four years earlier had established the Imperial Family of Asaka!

Prince AsakaIn the early 1920’s, the Prince headed off to Paris for military studies. There he was seriously injured in a car accident in 1923. His wife came to Paris to help nurse him back to health, and they both were still in Paris in 1925 when the 1925 Exposition Internationale Des Arts Decoratifs took the world by storm. Apparently, it took the Asaka family by storm as well, and the new art deco style, decoratif art in everyday life, caught their fancy.

In 1929, they began work on an Art Deco residence in Tokyo that was completed in 1933. While the Ministry of Imperial Household oversaw the design and construction, the input of several of the great French decorative arts practitioners, notably Rene Lalique, and to a larger degree Henri Rapin (to whom the Prince entrusted the interior design of 7 of the rooms), made the house a model of modernist art deco restraint and style. The architectural contributions of Rene Lalique included the glass panel doors, and the chandeliers in the dining hall and grand guest room.

Rene Lalique Glass Door at Tokyo Teien MuseumFast forward through a war, the Asaka Family in 1947 lost it’s membership in the Imperial Household, the residence was taken over by the government and put to various government uses, and finally, it was turned over to the Tokyo Metropolitan Foundation For History and Culture, which opened the doors of the Asaka residence as the Tokyo Metropolitan Teien Art Museum in 1983. The Asaka residence had wonderful grounds surrounding it, hence the addition of the word “Teien”, meaning park or gardens, to the name of the museum.

And that is why the great doors and chandeliers of Rene Lalique still exist in their original home today, along with other decorative R Lalique objects, all preserved in the museum.

Over the years, the museum has held many exhibitions, including a great Rene Lalique exhibition in 1988 that is documented extensively in the catalogue book of the exhibition containing about 200 very high quality R Lalique photos. A copy of this rare catalogue book from the exhibition at the former Asaka residence is available in the Rene Lalique Books and Library Section.

What happened to Prince Asaka, the creator of the great art deco residence? He served in the military during World War II (not without some controversy), making the rank of General. After the war he moved to the small city of Atami south of Tokyo where he became an avid golfer. He lived to the age of 93, passing away in 1981!

And why are we telling you all this now? Well, it’s great R Lalique history, and more importantly, we stumbled across a peaceful video of the museum, which takes you thru a personal video tour, including looks at some of the works of Rene Lalique which are installed and housed at the former Asaka residence. A relaxing look at the works of the great Rene Lalique at the Tokyo Metropolitan Teien Art Museum.

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