03 March 2016
Jean Perzel was born in Bavaria, Germany, in 1892. At the age of 16, he left Germany to travel through Europe, getting jobs along the way in design workshops where he was exposed to the techniques and influential styles of craftsmen in Austria, Czechoslovakia, Italy and finally France where he lived from 1910. Perzel joined the Foreign Legion when war broke out in 1914, to fight against his home nation. When the war ended, Perzel was granted French citizenship and he lived in Paris for the rest of his life.
Perzel had worked as a glass painter for the company Gruber in Paris, producing exceptional work and gaining an understanding of the nature of glass, how it illuminates and refracts. This formed his lifelong obsession of using glass to amplify electric light and in 1923, at the age of 31, Perzel established his own lighting company. His work catered for the affluent, design conscious market and helped form the Art Deco movement. His designs attracted great critical acclaim and he gained commissions for some of the most prestigious clients in the world. He contributed a substantial amount of lighting to the Marharaja of Indore's Manik Bagh palace, where his work sat alongside that of designers such as Sognot & Alix, Eileen Gray and Rhulmann.
From 1933, Perzel's nephew Francois Raidt joined the company and helped drive the business forward. He too dedicated his life to the business and then handed it over to his son Olivier in 1994 and the company continues to this day.
These lights were designed in the 1950s and are a good example of how the company evolved with the zeitgeist but adhered to its design principles. The combination of materials along with the simple yet robust lines of the design epitomizes his work, yet the use of ridged perspex was a then modern alternative to frosted glass.