Few animals are more fascinating than the peregrine falcon. None is faster. Thanks to its sleek, pointed wings, slim, stiff feathers and efficient circulatory and respiratory systems, it is an aerodynamic marvel, swooping down on prey like a dive bomber from great natural and, increasingly, manmade heights at speeds exceeding 200 mph. With the banning of the pesticide DDT in the 1970s, peregrine falcons have, like other raptors, made a big comeback, often building their nests on the tops of bridges and skyscrapers in cities like New York. (The peregrine is the official bird of Chicago, where it is quite at home, as seen in the recent documentary “World’s Fastest Animal” on PBS’ “Nova.”)
Since the Middle Ages the peregrine falcon has been a symbol of aristocratic power among both European nobility and the native peoples of the Mississippian culture on these shores. Small wonder then that the “Flying Falcon” — which takes flight this month — is the second creation in the “Essence of Speed” series that marks a collaboration between crystal-maker-turned-luxe-lifestyle brand Lalique and McLaren, manufacturer of high performance sports cars. (The first animal inspiration, the cheetah, was released in sculptural form last year. The third will be unveiled when it’s released next year.)
Made in Lalique’s patented satin-finished crystal, the “Flying Falcon” and the “Cheetah” each comes in a smaller standing edition, limited to 375 (the number of editions of McLaren’s P1 supercar), while a larger piece, cast in the lost-wax tradition, has been limited to 20 pieces to commemorate the 20 Formula One World Championships that McLaren has won to date.
The falcon’s noble mien, trainability and versatility have long made it a cultural symbol. The peregrine is the national animal of the United Arab Emirates and the official mascot of Bowling Green State University. Its sleek profile appears on Idaho’s 2007 quarter.
The falcon is also the inspiration behind Atlanta’s NFL team. In the fabled form of a golden, jewel-crusted statuette presented to Charles V of Spain by the Knights Templar, it becomes the MacGuffin, or plot point, that Humphrey Bogart, Mary Astor, Peter Lorre and Sydney Greenstreet chase in the iconic film noir “The Maltese Falcon” (1941).
The bird is also the metaphor for the tension between power and freedom in “Falconer,” the late Ossining resident John Cheever’s 1977 novel of redemption and resurrection, and the emblem of money and status on the 1980s nighttime soap opera, “Falcon Crest,” perching prettily with a hood on at the beginning of each episode.
Now, courtesy of a Lalique design, the “Flying Falcon” is ready to alight on your mantel forever.
The lost-wax sculptures in the “Essence of Speed” series are $69,000 each. The small sculptures are $2,800. Both are available this month at Lalique boutiques nationwide. Other Lalique works can be found locally at Woodrow Jewelers.