La Tentation (Temptation)

Maker and role
Artist: Edgar Brandt, French, 1880-1960
Manufacturer: Daum Frères, Nancy, France
ca. 1920-1926

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Bronze and glass, with electric light
height, 65 3/4in (167cm)
shade, diameter, 19in (48.3cm)
Credit line
Jeanne and Irving Mathews Collection
Accession number
Object type
Further information
Rising as if coaxed from a snake charmer's basket, the snake in Edgar Brandt's lamp symbolizes France's enduring fascination wtih exotic cultures. In 1798, when Napoleon invaded Egypt, he insisted that scholars record as much as possible about the culture. Egyptian designs and motifs, including snakes, appeared in the period's French decorative arts. Despite Napoleon's defeat, the French fascination with snake imagery lived on.

During the mid-1800s, paintings focusing on far-flung Eastern locales became popular, with snake charming as a common subject. By the late 1800s, when Art Nouveau emerged with its motifs from nature and curves stressing movement, the snake fit in perfectly. By the 1920s, when celebrated French metalworker Edgar Brandt designed this lamp, the life-size and realistic snake hovering in space - anchored only by the glass shade and the base - would have indeed charmed the French.
Subject period


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