A magnificent pair of Empire gilt bronze four-light wall-lights attributed to Claude Galle, each with an acanthus and palmette backplate issuing a winged harpy holding aloft in each hand a semi-circular foliate-wrapped trumpet-shaped branch supporting vase-shaped candle-holders.
Paris, circa 1810
The attribution of these magnificent wall-lights to Claude Galle (1759-1815) is based on their close similarity with others by him in the Charlottenzimmer in the Munich Residenz, which feature an identical winged figure and branched light fitting but differing terminal (illustrated in Hans Ottomeyer and Peter Pröschel, “Vergoldete Bronzen”, 1986, p. 357, pl. 5.10.7). Galle also supplied a similar pair of wall-lights to the Grand Trianon, Paris on 13th December 1809, priced at 350 francs. (see Ledoux-Lebard, 1975, 149-50 and picture on the left for comparison).
As one of the finest gilders and bronze makers of his day, Claude Galle (1759-1815) enjoyed the patronage of royalty, the aristocracy and Napoleon Bonaparte. From 1784 Galle began appearing in the trade registers; he became a maitre-fondeur in 1786 and in the same year received the first of many commissions from the Garde-Meuble to furnish the royal palaces. Among many contracts he gilded fine bronze mounts for the royal ébéniste, Guillaume Benneman. He also worked closely with others, gilding a number of fine bronzes for Pierre-Philippe Thomire, whose castings have often been confused with Galle’s, as they are so similar.
Like many, Galle suffered as a result of the Revolution though the situation dramatically improved when Napoleon came to power and regenerated interest in the arts.
During the Consulate Galle was appointed an official supplier to the Garde-Meuble for which he was paid handsomely, receiving for instance 65,543 francs for bronzes at SaintCloud. He also supplied other palaces especially Les Trianons, Le Palais des Tuileries, Châteaux de Fontainebleau, Compiègne, Rambouillet and a number of the Italian palaces at Monte Cavallo Rome and Stupinigi near Turin. His commissions included numerous light fittings, figural clock cases, vases and other fine bronze furnishings.
Ingenuity and finesse were a hallmark of his work. Yet despite numerous important commissions Galle was often in debt. This was partly due to a lavish life style, for instance he owned several large properties as well as a fine collection of art. In addition many of his clients, such as Prince Joseph Napoleon, failed to pay him. After his death Feuchère and André Coquille assessed his stock and managed to retrieve his debts. Thus Galle’s business was reopened and prospered under the direction of his son, Gérard-Jean Galle (1788-1846).
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