Fornells, a craftsman who specialized in plastics, made this maraschino-red box with a cherry motif for Lalique. Born of Andorran parents, he was raised in Barcelona, where he received training as a carverengraver. He moved to Paris in 1909 and by 1911 was working for Lalique. In 1913 Fornells set up his own studio, where he began experimenting with cellulose acetate plastics. In addition to supplying plastic boxes to Lalique, he worked closely with the perfume and cosmetics industry, creating plastic packaging for well-known companies such as Roger et Gallet, Worth, and Parfumerie d’Orsay.
One of the first plastics manufactured was cellulose nitrate (also known as Celluloid), which was discovered in 1856 and refined in 1877. Made from chemically treated cotton, the material could be easily molded into a wide range of shapes, from billiard balls to false teeth, and could replicate tortoiseshell, ivory, or horn. It was also used in flexible transparent sheets for photographic negatives and movie film. Its disadvantages included yellowing, cracking, and inflammability. Experimentation led to the invention of a nonflammable cotton-based synthetic plastic called cellulose acetate in the early twentieth century. Marketed under a variety of brand names, including Sicoid, it was tough, had a rich gloss, high transparency, and a good feel, making it desirable for precious handheld objects such as this box.
Inscription: Signed (on cover): R. LALIQUE
Lalique, Paris (until 1924; sold to MMA)
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Masterpieces of French Art Deco," August 4, 2009–January 23, 2011, no catalogue.
Antoni Morell et al. Eduard Fornells Marco: Un Andorra Universal, 1887–1942. Exh. cat., Sala d'Exposicions del M. I. Govern. [Andorra la Vella], 1989, ill. p. 39 (color).
Félix Marcilhac. René Lalique, 1860–1945: Maître-verrier. Analyse de l'oeuvre et catalogue raisonné. Rev. ed (1st ed., 1989). Paris, 2004, p. 236, no. 72, ill., calls it "Boîte carrée 'Cerises'".