France, late 18th century
Chased, patinated and gilt bronze
The slightly oblong, patinated bronze central barrel is decorated in its centre with chased and gilt bronze motifs: twisted flutes, rows of small pearls and pinecone at the end.
The barrel is part of a tripod mount in chased and gilt bronze, presenting female heads with bezels in the upper part and ending with deer feet. It rests on a round counter-base, openworked in its centre where rests a gilt bronze leaf. The lower round base is made of gilt bronze.
The reference to Antiquity
From the middle of the 18th century, the opening of the Grand Tour allowed a large number of architects, painters and sculptors to come into direct contact with the remains of Antiquity. Combining their artistic sensibility with a scientific method, they visited the antic site and studied the monuments, carrying out excavations and making meticulous records.
They then shared the results of their works through scholarly publications. Among the available archaeological sources, ancient Greek architectural models from both the metropolis (mainland Greece) and its colonies in Asia Minor, southern Italy (Paestum) and Sicily, as well as ancient Greek ceramics (commonly known as Etruscan), hold a dominant place.
The direct association between source of inspiration and original creation is evoked both by the nomenclature of the decoration of the period (“à la grecque”, “grec”, “genre étrusque”) and by the progressive appropriation of their forms.
This model of candlestick thus illustrates the decorative vogue encountered at the very end of the 18th century and yet announces the Empire style. Outcome of the Louis XVI style, the use of the tripod shape and animal paws feet is characteristic of this period and refers directly to the ancient artworks discovered during the excavations carried out at Herculaneum (House of the Cervi) and Pompeii. This form of feet, inspired by deer’s feet, was in fact available in all decorative arts.
Jean-Demosthène Dugourc (1749-1825)
The development of a new style, in which Antiquity is treated in a more archaeological manner than before, owes much to the role or ornamentalists such as Jean-Demosthène Dugourc. The designs of the ornamentalist were indeed able to provide sources of inspiration for the bronze-maker who made these candlesticks.
In the service of the Duke of Orleans, the father of Jean-Demosthène Dugourc had an honourable fortune which enabled his son to share the studies of the Duke of Chartres. At the age of 15, in 1764, Jean-Demosthène Dugourc made a short stay in Rome, where he discovered Antiquity, while he was attached to the embassy of the Count of Cani.
Thanks to his marriage with the sister of François-Joseph Bélanger, architect to the Count of Artois (future Charles X), Jean-Demosthène Dugourc became Monsieur’s draughtsman. In 1784, he was appointed draughtsman of the Garde-Meuble de la Couronne1 and intendant of Monsieur’s buildings. Quickly known throughout Europe, he was commissioned to draw for the King of Sweden, the Grand Duke of Russia Paul I and Empress Catherine II.
Early contributor to the return of neoclassical taste with his arabesque drawings and interiors in the Etruscan style, he published six engraved arabesque plates, which he was the first to introduce into architecture as well as furniture, drapery and fabrics.
However, the revolution put an end to his prestigious commissions: Jean-Demosthène Dugourc then worked for a wallpaper manufacture where he invented models for playing cards or letterheads.
In 1799, he moved to Spain to work for the Casa del Labrador in Aranjuez, one of the residences of the royal family, as well as for the Duchesses of Alba and Osuna. Jean-Demosthène Dugourc returned to France in 1814: the ascension to the throne of his former mentor, becoming Charles X, restored his title of draughtsman of the Garde-Meuble until his death in 1825.
Pierre Arizzoli-Clémentel et al., De Dugourc à Pernon, nouvelles acquisitions graphiques pour les musées, cat. expo., Lyon, Musée historique des Tissus (décembre 1990-mars 1991), Lyon, Musée des Tissus, 1990.
Hans Ottomeyer, Vergoldete Bronzen, Tome I, München, Klinkhardt & Biermann, 1986, pp. 217-315.
Jean-Pierre Samoyault, Mobilier français Consulat et Empire, Paris, Gourcuff Gradenigo, 2009.
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