A Cruise with Arethusa: Lalique Art elevates Silversea’s Maritime Heritage

The mysterious nymph in crystal, René Lalique’s emblematic creation, has become the distinctive symbol of La Dame gourmet restaurants on board the Silversea fleet of cruise ships – a collaboration that draws on Lalique’s maritime heritage.

The art of travel is intrinsic to the lifestyle of free-spirited people. Unrestricted travel has become a rare luxury during a time when a global pandemic has abruptly curtailed our longing to explore new horizons. Private jets enable rapid displacement but discovering the world by boat is a more fulfilling mode of travel. Cruising the oceans offers an opportunity to marvel at the wonders of the world from an angle that is all but forgotten, while enjoying the luxury of a bygone age. René Lalique was well aware of this when he contributed to the décor of the ocean liners Paris, Île-de-France and Normandie, some of the world’s most refined and luxurious cruise ships. These French liners were showcases for the art of the 1930s and French lifestyle. Normandie was the last to be adorned with wall lamps and chandeliers designed by René Lalique.

To recapture this experience today, Silversea Cruises offers voyages that provide guests with outstanding comfort and the ultimate in luxury. The ships share common features: supremely elegant and sophisticated décor, top-quality materials, lavish fittings, suites with the highest space-to-guest ratio of any accommodation available on luxury cruisers, and a memorable culinary experience on board.

Silversea has recently pushed the boundaries of innovation with significant improvements to its cruise ships. In its continuing quest for excellence, the company called upon Lalique’s expertise in the design of the La Dame restaurants on board Silver Shadow, Silver Endeavour, Silver Dawn and Silver Moon. For Barbara Muckermann, Silversea’s president and CEO, the choice was self-evident, given the master glassmaker’s oeuvre. “Lalique represents French luxury, and the company already had a maritime history. The collaboration was an immediate success in every sense. Silversea offers top-class cruises with a lifestyle that epitomizes the elegance of the past: when crossings on ocean liners were majestic affairs, when the dress code for diners prescribed the height of chic, when passengers were able to mix with the utmost discretion. Silversea is set upon reviving that spirit,” she explains.

For the redecoration of the La Dame gourmet restaurants, which serve classic French cuisine aboard the Silversea fleet, Lalique’s designers proposed the Masque de Femme motif, representing the nymph Arethusa, a mysterious female face with delicate features and a crown of aquatic creatures. It was conceived by René Lalique in 1935 as an adornment for the Coutard fountain. Indeed, the Coutard motif, representing a spray of water droplets, completes the crystal panels. For instance, “the Masque de Femme corresponds perfectly to what we imagined for La Dame, which needed a feminine icon, and this nymph rising from the water has an obvious association with the sea,” Muckermann explains.

On board Silver Moon and Silver Shadow there are respectively eleven and seven magnificent works of art in crystal. They adorn the walls of the entrance and interior of the La Dame restaurants. The realization of this project is a remarkable feat because Lalique had to work to new specifications to ensure the stability of such handmade crystal panels on a cruise ship. The designers, engineers and craftspeople at Lalique took 18 months to make the panels. They are constructed without metal frames to give them a feeling of lightness and purity, as though they are floating, with the crystal composition frozen on the glass. It took a team of artisans 30 hours to custom-make each panel at the factory in Wingen-sur-Moder, Alsace.

The panels impart a hushed and luxurious feel to the atmosphere, making full use of the light. “The crystal provides a powerful enhancement because it allows the light reflected in it to pass through. Guests are propelled into another dimension. The Lalique panels are central to the décor of the restaurant, real experiences in themselves, blending lifestyle, fine tableware and refined dishes. Everything is in perfect harmony, as though we are in a jewel box. On board Silver Moon, just behind the reception area of La Dame, a large-format crystal panel separates the restaurant space from the entrance, creating a magnificent luminous attraction. The restaurant, with its splendid view onto the ocean, benefits from beautiful natural light during the day. When night falls, the crystal panels are revealed by lighting that contrasts with the deep black of the sea and the sky, in which the moon may appear,” Muckermann says.

From November 2021, there will be similar panels to admire on board Silver Dawn, an enhancement that Barbara Muckermann would like to see extended to the rest of the fleet: “We aim to fit out La Dame on the other La Dame restaurants on the ships of the Silversea fleet. The Masque de Femme and Coutard panels are to become an integral part of the restaurants’ identities”. Silvio Denz, for his part, is enthusiastic about the projects: “We are delighted that these custom-made structural panels in Lalique crystal are sailing on board the ultra-luxurious cruise ships Silver Moon and Silver Shadow, enriching the unique on-board experience of Silversea passengers.” Lalique is perpetuating French lifestyle on these voyages that explore the calm waters of the Mediterranean, the North Sea, the Caribbean, Asia and the Americas, on fabulous cruises offering the 21st-century’s most exquisite luxury experience on the high seas.

This article originally featured in the 2021 edition of Lalique Magazine.