Celebrating 120 years in business, Delisle has garnered accolades from its work on royal commissions to restoring historical monuments. Known for its wrought iron and bronze works, the company celebrates its storied past, and looks to the future by staying true to its roots.
By Kirsten Niper
Delisle has been a family business specializing in bronze and wrought iron for five generations. From designing pieces for the Blue Bloods of Europe to American millionaires to restoring historical monuments, Jean-Michel Delisle, director of Delisle, credits the company’s staying power to keeping the strategy consistent.
“For the last 120 years, we have kept the same strategy, always making high-fashion lighting and furniture. We have always wanted to remain classical with high quality, with no question to the cost of the product. We have never wanted to be fashionable,” explains Delisle.
Every project begins with the drawing, of which Delisle has over 15,000 watercolors and drawings in its archives. “It all begins in the hands of the designer, then it’s sculpted with a wood plaster resin,” shares Delisle. Next, the mold is sent to the foundry to be casted. “Our job is to make reproductions from the model, and it can be made in many pieces and then reassembled and gold plated. Later, it is wired for electricity and crystals are selected to
install,” explains Delisle.
The company’s history constantly guides its future path. “We don’t want to be old, and the classical style, it’s in our look, it’s in our blood,” states Delisle. “We are like an antique dealer and a curator of past designs.” Delisle’s great grandfather loved 18th-century bronze, and by the end of the 19th century, everyone was dedicated to Art Noveau, so the elder Delisle gathered up more bronzes, leading to one of the wealthiest collections. “There is no interruption [of the design aesthetic]. We are proud of our past, and want to be proud of our future.”
Delisle was founded in 1895 by Henry Delisle, an alumnus of École Boulle and winner of the grand prize at the Brussels World Fair in 1897, and his brother Gaston. Delisle’s past works include designing pieces for the royalty of Europe including Tsar Nicholas II, Albert I of Belgium and Peter I of Serbia, to doing work for well-known American families, including the Vanderbilts and Henry Phipps.
The family company also credits being in France for its staying power and design aesthetic. “The company itself is our wealth and we want to preserve it, and our goal is to give a wealthy position to our sons,” explains
Delisle. According to Delisle, Paris is a dream and France is known for taste. “A very long time ago, I was studying and traveled across the United States for four months and I learned that everyone knows Paris and France.”
As a reflection of the company’s standing, the French government requested Delisle to help restore monuments after the destruction of World War II. “Between 1950 and 1980, the public’s historical monuments needed to be restored, and it was 20 to 30 percent of my father’s activity,” explains Delisle.
The architects of Château de Versailles called on the company’s services, and Delisle was also involved in the first restoration of the Opéra Royal in 1962 by designing chandeliers and demi-chandeliers based on the writings of 18th-century artisans, which are still in place today. Delisle also designed Louis XIV chandeliers for the Institut de France and the 18th-century-style crystal chandeliers of the Salon de la Légion d’Honneur at the Hôtel des Invalides, which garnered Delisle a contract for the decoration of the Louis XIV Château at Louveciennes, the largest private mansion built in France since the 19th century.
It also was involved in the reproduction of 16th- and 17th-century royal bedrooms at the Wrightsman Galleries at the Metropolitan Museum and the Shangri La, where the company had to mind feng shui while reproducing the 19th-century style of the historical building.
Delisle is sought after for its French style. It recently was involved in a house in Beverly Hills for a television producer, and not long ago it completed a project for the Ritz Paris.
Delisle is a member of the Comité Colbert, an association of 78 French luxury brands whose goal is to promote French art. The
Comité is also expanding into other European countries to celebrate their art. It is also a peek into the next 120 years for Delisle. “The Comité Colbert is celebrating its 60th anniversary, and we asked the younger people in our companies what the Comité will be in 60 years,” shares Delisle. One of the suggestions was chandeliers on the moon. No matter what the next 120 years bring, Delisle’s goal will remain the same — “Bronze can last a hundred years, but style has to remain pure.”