Offered by Richard Redding Antiques
Leading antique and fine art gallery, specialises in the finest French clocks.
A very fine and unusual Empire gilt and patinated bronze eight-light chandelier, the circular corona ring with gadrooned border surmounted by eight thin curved branches terminated by gilded flower heads and mounted by a berried boss to its underside, the corona supporting below four ornate gilt linked chains that loop around the necks of four swans that project from the edge of an enclosed patinated bronze circular dished tazza that is surmounted by a gilt flaming finial above plain and beaded gilt borders, the swan necks interspersed by eight branches, each shaped as an eagle, their necks protruding from the edge and lower side of the dished tazza and their heads, each supporting a foliate-wrapped candle nozzle with circular drip-pan, the underside of the patinated tazza centred by a foliate ring and pineapple boss and surrounded by a mounted ring of alternate scrolled flaming torches and anthemion issuing owls with wings out-spread
Paris, date circa 1815
Height 80 cm, diameter 60 cm.
Literature: Hans Ottomeyer and Peter Pröschel, “Vergoldete Bronzen”, 1986, p. 360, pl. 5.11.7, illustrating another Empire gilt and patinated bronze chandelier of circa 1810 with a similarly shaped dished tazza ring with swan-shaped candle branches.
Swans, eagles and owls were three birds that often featured within Empire design, which in turn were inspired by Antique prototypes. The eagle was the attribute of Jupiter, the supreme mythological god and was adopted as the ancient symbol of power and victory and as such, was represented on the standards of the Roman legions. The owl, which was associated with the mythological goddess Minerva, was to be found on the reverse of ancient Greek coins bearing her image and from this became a symbol of wisdom, which Minerva personified. Among Empire gilt bronzes are a number of candelabra featuring back-to-back owls in the Palais de La Légion d’Honneur, the Salon des Dames d’honneur de l’Empress Joséphine at the Palais de Saint-Cloud and the Ministére de la Marine. Swans were perhaps even more popular decorative motifs within Empire design. Since they often pulled Zeus’s chariot, they became an attribute of Apollo and also because of their beauty they came to be associated with Venus, the goddess of love. From the Consulate on they became an important element within the decorative arts; the Empress Joséphine much admired these birds and acquired several black swans from the Bass Straits for the park at Malmaison while inside the palace her bedroom suite included a gilded bed with cornucopiae and swans at its feet. Swans also adorned Madame Récamier’s bed which was designed by Louis-Martin Berthault and made by Jacob-Desmalter circa 1799 (Musée du Louvre); they also featured within the decoration at Hôtel de Beauharnais for Prince Eugène in 1803.
With its dished tazza at centre, the overall design of this handsome chandelier was inspired by antique Roman oil lamps. It compares, for instance, with an ancient bronze hanging oil lamp in the Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Harvard, which has a central bowl to contain the oil and six nozzles for the wicks; three of which are in the form of downward looking faces and are interspersed by three smaller nozzles, each in the form of a ship’s prow. As here, the Roman lamp was intended to be viewed from below and thus the underside is decorated and is centred by a circular boss.
Adding splendour to any room, the present chandelier compares to a number of other contemporary examples. Among them is a sixteen-light chandelier once owned by the fashion designer Gianni Versace (1946-97) at his palatial Villa Fontanelle near Moltrasio on Lake Como, Lombardy in Italy, which was sold along with the rest of his collection by Sotheby’s London, 18th March 2009, lot 17 for £46,850. Gianni Versace’s chandelier is surmounted by a palmetted corona from which hang linked chains, supporting a similarly shaped central waisted body. Both that, and the present piece, compare to another contemporary and equally sumptuous gilt and patinated chandelier with thirty-two lights, that was once owned by another fashion icon – Hélène Rochas (1921-2011). Madame Rochas’s chandelier hung in the dining room of her Paris apartment at rue Barbet de Jouy up until her death in 2011, before being acquired by Richard Redding Antiques.
17 500 €
3 500 €