Important Pair of Monumental Gilt Bronze Six-Light Candelabra with Matte and Burnished Finishing "Psyche", Empire period

Attribued to Louis-Auguste Hervieu (1765-1811)
Paris, Empire period, circa 1805
Height 111.5 cm; width 33 cm; depth 24 cm
T
his pair of gilt and patinated bronze candelabra have an anthropomorphic stem in the form of a young woman in classical dress, who is wearing sandals and has butterfly wings. She represents the goddess Psyche. The figure is depicted in a solemn pose, holding in each hand a torch that is decorated with fluting, stylized leaves, and bands of scrolls. Octagonal drip pans with matted reserves sit atop them. On her head the goddess supports a vase that is adorned with three Gorgon’s masks from which emerge from the curving light arms that terminate in eagles whose heads support the festooned candleholders, which are decorated with scrolls and flowers. The central stem, which features three owls with finely chased feathers, terminates in three-lobed oil lamp that also contains a central drip pan. The quadrangular pedestal rests on the backs of four winged lions; its upper corners are embellished with rams’ heads. The pedestal’s façade is decorated with applied motifs of priestesses and bacchantes, while the other three sides feature two trumpeting Cupids and a flaming athénienne. A square plinth with shaped sides supports the candelabra.
 
I
n 1798 and 1801 France led expeditions to Egypt, in the hopes of thwarting British ambitions in the Orient. By conquering the territory, France hoped to politically and economically dominate the region. Led first by General Napoleon Bonaparte, then by his successors, this military operation - known as the Egyptian Campaign - was accompanied by a veritable research mission made up of eminent scientists and historians, as well as renowned artists. After the return to France, the mission continued to have extraordinary repercussions, particularly in the field of the decorative arts. In 1802, Baron Vivant-Denon published his very popular book Voyage dans la Basse et la Haute Egypte. Subsequently architects, painters, and artisans began to make their own personal interpretations of Egyptian models, varying them and including them in their work. In the field of lighting, many candelabra were adorned with solemn female figures that had been inspired by the monumental of the Pharaohs. The present pair of candelabra, made within this particular context, may be confidently attributed to Louis-Auguste Hervieu (1765-1811), one of the most important bronze casters of the Empire period. Hervieu was quite famous in his day, and worked with clockmakers such as the Lepautes, the bronziers Galle and Blerzy, and the painter Sauvage. He stood out from among the other bronze casters of his time due to his ability to design many different types of light fixtures, which were based on a limited number of basic models and tended to share certain motifs. Several models of candelabra made by Hervieu were studied by Jean-Dominique Augarde in “Une nouvelle vision du bronze et des bronziers sous le Directoire et l’Empire”, in L’Estampille/L’Objet d’art, n° 398, January 2005, p. 80-84.

Augarde states that Hervieu often adorned his candelabra with the motif of addorsed owls such as the ones that appear on the present candelabra. He also points out that the long-standing attribution of a pair of candelabra in the Grand Trianon to Martin-Guillaume Biennais is erroneous, and that its unusual composition must without a doubt be attributed to Hervieu (illustrated in D. Ledoux-Lebard, Inventaire général du musée national de Versailles et des Trianons, Tome 1, Le Grand Trianon, Meubles et objets d’art, Paris, 1975, p. 117). One pair of candelabra that is similar to the present pair, though lacking its light branches, is illustrated in H. Ottomeyer and P. Pröschel, Vergoldete Bronzen, Band I, Munich, 1986, p. 334. A second pair, identical to the present candelabra, belongs to the Mobilier national in Paris; it is today on display in the Palais de la Légion d’honneur and appeared in the 1805 inventory, standing in the Empress’s Premier Salon in the Palace of Saint-Cloud (see “Recevoir au Palais”, in Palais de la Légion d’honneur la mémoire du lieu, Editions Monelle Hayot, 2016, p. 27, and M-F. Dupuy-Baylet, L’Heure, Le Feu, La Lumière, Les bronzes du Mobilier national 1800-1870, Editions Faton, Dijon, 2010, p. 28-29).
 

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Hervieu Louis-Auguste


Hervieu Important Pair of Monumental Gilt Bronze Six-Light Candelabra with Matte and Burnished Finishing "Psyche", Empire period