Important Pair of Gilt Bronze Four-Light Candelabra, with Matte and Burnished Finishing
The Three Owls
Attributed to Parisian Bronze Caster Louis-Auguste Hervieu
Paris, Empire period, circa 1805
The pair of candelabra, made of finely chased gilt and patinated bronze with matte and burnished finishing, feature triangular obelisk-form stems that are adorned with applied wreaths and couples in the process of quarreling and reconciling, standing on entablatures with goats’ leg feet, spiraling stems and palmette-decorated C-scrolls; the upper corners of the obelisks are adorned with rams’ heads. The stems are surmounted by spheres resting on flames and supporting three addorsed owls issuing a bouquet of light branches. The latter have a central stem terminating in an elongated urn decorated with winged female figures holding draperies, surrounded by the three remaining curving branches. The branches are adorned with leafy foliage and roosters’ heads terminating in stylized dolphins’ heads; their mouths, with serrated teeth, serve as drip pans. The candelabra rest on three robust winged lions’ paw feet that are raised on shaped triangular bases with flattened ball feet.
The unusual composition featuring obelisk-form stems, and the quality of the chasing and gilding of the present pair of candelabra support their attribution to Louis-Auguste Hervieu (1765-1811), one of the most creative bronze casters working in Paris during the Empire period (see J-D. Augarde, “ 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, pp. 80-84). The author states that Hervieu often decorated his candelabra with motifs of addorsed owls such as those that adorn the present pair. He also points out a long-standing error – the attribution to Martin-Guillaume Biennais of a pair of candelabra in the Grand Trianon, whose remarkable composition should almost certainly 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). The candelabra in the Grand Trianon are similar to the present pair – they also feature obelisk-form stems, are adorned with three addorsed owls, and have identical central stems. Among the small number of identical candelabra known, one pair with several variations, now in the Mobilier national (Hôtel de la Monnaie), is illustrated in E. Dumonthier, Les bronzes du Mobilier national, Bronzes d’éclairage et chauffage, Paris, 1911, plate XIX, fig.3.
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.