Rare Pair of Gilt and Patinated Bronze Two-Light Candelabra, Consulate period

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Rare Pair of Gilt and Patinated Bronze Two-Light Candelabra
Paris, Consulate period, circa 1800
Height 50 cm; width 18 cm; diameter of the base 13 cm

The candelabra feature an anthropomorphic stem depicting a smiling young black boy with enamel eyes. He is wearing hoop earrings and a pearl necklace, as well as a trimmed loincloth with gold cord ties. In each hand he holds a light branch whose stem is adorned with spiral fluting and which terminates in a gadrooned drip pan and engine-turned binet. The figure stands on a tall cylindrical base that is decorated with a wide engine-turned band and which stands on a round plinth that is raised on three lion’s paw feet.

Exotic figures were not widely used as decorative themes in French and European decorative arts until the late 18th century. It was not until the end of the Ancien Régime, and more precisely the last decade of the 18th and the early 19th century, that the first “au nègre” or “au sauvage” candlesticks, candelabra, and clocks began to appear. These pieces grew out of a philosophic movement that was evoked in literary and historical works such as Paul et Virginie by Bernardin de Saint-Pierre (published in 1787, it depicts the innocence of mankind), Atala by Chateaubriand, which is a restoration of the Christian ideal, and above all, Daniel Defoe’s masterpiece Robinson Crusoe, published in 1719. As is often the case, these books were a rich source of inspiration for the artisans of the period, and particularly the bronze casters. As a result, many elegant creations featured this type of figure, employing them in candlesticks, candelabra, and clocks. By the late 18th century, certain models appeared from time to time in the homes of influential collectors. One piece was mentioned in 1789 as being in the home of the lawyer André-Marie Alix; another was in the home of Marie-Victoire de Saint-Simon in 1790; several years later, yet another example was mentioned as belonging to François-Joseph Lelièvre de Lagrange in 1808.

The present pair of candelabra was created within this context of artistic effervescence. Among the rare similar models known today, some feature variations, especially in the treatment of the bases. They include one pair in which the figures wear feather headdresses, which was sold at Christie’s, Monaco, on December 5, 1992, lot 87; a second example was formerly in the collection of Baron Erich von Goldschmidt-Rothschild (sold Geneva, Habsburg-Feldman, May 10, 1988, lot 127). Two further pairs of candelabra of the same model are in the Musée François Duesberg in Mons (illustrated in Musée François Duesberg, Arts décoratifs 1775-1825, Brussels, 1998, p. 9).

Object Name: Rare Pair of Gilt and Patinated Bronze Two-Light Candelabra, Consulate period
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Reference: CA53
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