An extremely fine Empire gilt bronze eight-light chandelier, the circular ring with eight swan-neck branches supporting foliate-wrapped vase-shaped nozzles with circular drip-pans, the swans with wings outstretched alternating with gilded hippocampi, the main ring lavishly cast underneath with anthemion and acanthus scrolls above a pinecone boss and surmounted above by a pierced basket on a pedestal foot, hung from four chains connecting to the upper corona with a pinecone boss and surmounted by a ring of shield-shaped double swans headed by anthemion mounts
Paris, date circa 1810
Height 102 cm.
Provenance: Marie-Caroline, duchesse de Berry, her boudoir, Pavillon de Marsan, Palais de Tuileries, Paris.
Literature: Mario Praz, “An Illustrated History of Interior Decoration, from Pompeii to Art Nouveau”, 1967, p. 200, pl. 167, illustrating a watercolour by Garnerey circa 1821/2 in the Conte Lodovico Lucchesi-Palli collection, Brunnsee Castle, Austria, showing the chandelier hanging in the duchesse de Berry’s boudoir, at the Pavillon de Marsan, Palais de Tuileries, Paris.
Ottomeyer and Peter Pröschel, “Vergoldete Bronzen”, 1986, p. 360, pl. 5.11.7, illustrating an extremely similar chandelier with patinated bronze swan branches of circa 1810.
Garnerey’s watercolour of the duchesse de Berry’s (1798-1870) boudoir shows this chandelier suspended from the centre of her room; to the left is her bed beneath heavy drapes and to the right, close to the fireplace is the duchesse reading a book while beside her playing are her two children, Louise Marie de Bourbon (1819-1864), who married Charles III duc de Parma and Henri Charles Ferdinand Marie Dieudonné d’Artois, duc de Bordeaux (1820-83). As grandchildren of Charles X, they were both in line to the French throne.
The duchesse de Berry was the daughter of Francis I King of the Two Sicilies and in 1816 became the second wife of Charles Ferdinand duc de Berry, son of Charles X. They lived in the Pavillon de Marsan, flanking the northern end of the Palais de Tuileries on the rue de Rivoli. It was there, possibly in the same boudoir where the present chandelier hung, that their son Henri was born only a few months after his father had been assassinated; Henri’s birth ensured the continuation of the senior Bourbon line. When Charles X abdicated in 1830 the duchesse tried to secure the throne for her son and later in 1832 tried unsuccessfully to stage an insurrection against Louis Philippe. She was arrested and imprisoned but released the following year when it was discovered that she had secretly married an Italian nobleman, an act that which exempted her from the French throne.
Her chandelier with its swan-shaped candle branches was inspired by the antique style promoted by Charles Percier (1764-1838) and Pierre François Léonard Fontaine (1762-1853), in their “Recueil de Décorations Intérieures” of 1801. Percier and Fontaine often featured hippocampi within their designs as well as other mythical creatures such as griffins. Winged griffins feature as candle branches in a Percier design for a chandelier of 1798 (illustrated in “Connaissance des Arts”, no. 28, 15th June 1954, p. 32). Related swan-necked branches issuing from a sphere appear on chandeliers in the Schloss Wilhelmshöhe, Kassel and the Munich Residenz, although in those examples the swans hold vase-shaped sockets and drip-pans in their beaks (illustrated Ottomeyer and Pröschel, op. cit. p. 359, pl. 5.11.5). Another related example centred by the figure of Mercury also includes swans acting as brackets for the main ring from which the chains are attached (illustrated ibid. p. 360, pl. 5.11.8).
Swans were a popular motif within Empire design and feature on a number of different works of art, such as beds or chairs made by the Parisian firm of ébénistes Jacob Desmalter et Cie, or on other gilt bronze light fittings such as on a three-light wall-light by the great Empire bronzier Claude Galle (1759-1815) (illustrated ibid. p. 357, pl. 5.10.8). The latter in the Grand Trianon, Versailles features a similar swan to those on this chandelier but in addition to supporting a socket on its head it also has one on the tips of each wing.
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