Rare Pair of Gilt and Patinated Bronze Candlesticks in the form of Cassolette Vases, with Matte Finishing, Empire period

Attributed to Claude Galle
Paris, Empire period, circa 1805
Height 37 cm; width 12.5 cm
M
ade of finely chased gilt and patinated bronze with matte finishing, the cassolette vases have a plain belly with molding, in the shape of a Medici type vase, whose base is adorned with a bouquet of waterleaves alternating with seeds. It is embellished with winged mascarons relating to Mercury and flanked by horse head handles with mobile rings. They stand on tapering pedestals that are adorned with friezes and gadrooned toruses and are surmounted by circular bands with pierced friezes on which rest the lids with seed finials emerging from leafy bouquets; these removable covers may be turned over as desired; each features on its reverse a stem with leaves that terminates in a poppy bud with a knurled drip pan, which forms the candleholder. The high square bases have concave molding and applied motifs featuring dancing female figures and ewers with applied handles. The vases stand on molded quadrangular bases.
 
T
he exceptional quality of the chasing and gilding, as well as the unusual design of the present rare pair of candlesticks in the form of cassolette vases rank them among the most elaborate pairs of lighting instruments of the early 19th century. Their ingenious system of reversible covers, both playful and practical, since it reveals the candleholder, was inspired by Parisian models of the second half of the 18th century, to which the bronze caster added the highly original zoomorphic handles. Today, a small number of comparable models featuring the same system are known: one pair, with lions’ head handles, is in the Pavlovsk Palace (see The State Culture Preserve Pavlovsk, Full Catalogue of the Collections, Tome X, Metal-Bronze, Volume II, Saint Petersburg, 2016, p. 202-203, catalogue 213-214). A second example, whose handles are elephants’ heads, is in the Musée François Duesberg in Mons; it has been attributed to the Parisian bronzier Claude Galle (illustrated in Musée François Duesberg, Arts décoratifs 1775-1825, Pendules à sujets exotiques et bronzes dorés français, undated, p.10). Finally, two further pairs that are identical to the present pair are known: the first was formerly in the Flensburg collection (sold by Bruun Rasmussen, October 29-31, 1997, lot 70); the second pair is illustrated in J. Bourne and V. Brett, L’art du Luminaire, Editions Flammarion, Paris, 1992, p. 147, fig. 498.
 
C
laude Galle (1759 - 1815)
One of the foremost bronziers and fondeur-ciseleurs of the late Louis XVI and Empire periods, Claude Galle was born at Villepreux near Versailles. He served his apprenticeship in Paris under the fondeur Pierre Foy, and in 1784 married Foy’s daughter. In 1786 he became a maitre-fondeur. After the death of his father-in-law in 1788, Galle took over his workshop, soon turning it into one the finest, and employing approximately 400 craftsmen. Galle moved to Quai de la Monnaie (later Quai de l’Unité), and then in 1805 to 60 Rue Vivienne.
The Garde-Meuble de la Couronne, under the direction of sculptor Jean Hauré from 1786-88, entrusted him with many commissions. Galle collaborated with many excellent artisans, including Pierre-Philippe Thomire, and furnished the majority of the furnishing bronzes for the Château de Fontainebleau during the Empire. He received many other Imperial commissions, among them light fittings, figural clock cases, and vases for the palaces of Saint-Cloud, the Trianons, the Tuileries, Compiègne, and Rambouillet. He supplied several Italian palaces, such as Monte Cavallo, Rome and Stupinigi near Turin.
In spite of his success, and due in part to his generous and lavish lifestyle, as well as to the failure of certain of his clients (such as the Prince Joseph Bonaparte) to pay what they owed, Galle often found himself in financial difficulty. Galle’s business was continued by his son after his death by his son, Gérard-Jean Galle (1788-1846). Today his work may be found in the world’s most important museums and collections, those mentioned above, as well as the Musée National du Château de Malmaison, the Musée Marmottan in Paris, the Museo de Reloges at Jerez de la Frontera, the Residenz in Munich, and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

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Galle Claude


Galle Rare Pair of Gilt and Patinated Bronze Candlesticks in the form of Cassolette Vases, with Matte Finishing, Empire period