A Rare Pair of Two-Light Neoclassical Wall Sconces in Gilt Bronze with Matte and Burnished Finishing “Allegories of War and Peace”, Transition between the Louis XV and Louis XVI periods
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Inspired by drawings by designer Jean-Charles Delafosse
A Rare Pair of Two-Light Neoclassical Wall Sconces in Gilt Bronze with Matte and Burnished Finishing
“Allegories of War and Peace”
Paris, Transition between the Louis XV and Louis XVI periods, circa 1765-1770
Height 58 cm; width 35 cm; depth 19.5 cm
- Probably the pair of wall lights mentioned in the probate inventory of Charles-Michel, Marquis de Villette (1736-1793): “… a pair of ‘bras de cheminée’ with two branches, surmounted by a military trophy”.
Made entirely of finely chased bronze with matte and burnished finishing, the present wall lights feature a plain tapering stem that is decorated with a lion mask; it issues from an acanthus leaf bouquet and terminates in a flaming finial with a molded band. To the stem are attached two curved light branches made of reeds adorned with olive branches and allegorical symbols of Peace. They support round drip pans decorated with bead and olive friezes and adorned with high-relief foliage, lictors’ fasces, clubs and banners, set against matted grounds. The cylindrical nozzles, adorned with sinuous gadroons, are also decorated with beads and olives, and cord motifs. The wall lights are surmounted by magnificent allegorical trophies representing War, comprising four banners centered by suits of armor with clubs, surmounted by plumed and crested helmets.
By the mid 18th century, the ornamental vocabulary that had prevailed in the French decorative arts for several decades had begun to come into question. An artistic movement led by scholars, artists and connoisseurs, was inspired by the archaeological discoveries made in the ancient Roman cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum, near Naples. Due to the support of a small but influential group of collectors, artists and artisans, including the Duke de Caylus and Lalive de Jully, a new style directly inspired by ancient Greece and Rome gained in popularity. This was the Retour à l’Antique (Return to the Classical), which itself was inspired by the late 17th century neoclassicism of the reign of Louis XIV.
The present exceptionally rare wall lights – to the best of our knowledge this is the only known pair of this model – were made within that context of artistic effervescence. Their ornamental vocabulary, including the allegories of War and Peace, was inspired by the work of important Parisian designers, including Aubert Parent, who executed a drawing of a war trophy that is shown in P. Kjellberg, Encyclopédie de la pendule française du Moyen Age au XXe siècle, Les éditions de l’Amateur, Paris, 1997; p. 171, and Jean-Charles Delafosse, whose engraved models appear in his famous album Nouvelle iconologie historique. Published in Paris in 1768, it was an attempt to create a new ornamental repertoire for the artists and artisans of the time. Also related are several drawings of allegorical trophies by Delafosse that Georges Hoentschel donated to the Paris Musée des arts décoratifs (illustrated in the exhibition catalogue La fabrique du luxe, Les marchands merciers parisiens au XVIIIe siècle, Musée Cognacq-Jay, Paris, 2018, p. 134-135, catalogue n° 35).
Jean-Charles Delafosse (1734-1791)
Architect, designer and painter
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