Hans Ottomeyer and Peter Pröschel, "Vergoldete Bronzen", 1986, p. 141, pl. 2.11.10, illustrating one of a pair of similar overt Rococo three-light wall-lights of circa 1750, attributed to Jacques Caffiéri in the J. P. Getty Museum, California. F. J. B. Watson, "The Wrightsman Collection", 1966, vol. II, pl. 217 A and B, illustrating one of another pair of similarly elaborate two-light wall-lights attributed to Jacques Caffiéri dated circa 1745-49 in the Wrightsman Collection, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.
A pair of extremely rare and beautiful pair of Louis XV gilt bronze three-light wall-lights attributed to Jacques Caffiéri, each of asymmetrical Rococo outline, the highly ornate openwork serpentine and scrolling acanthus wrapped backplate cast overall with entwined roses, other flowers and foliage issuing three scrolling C-shaped branches cast with flowers and foliage terminating in foliate wrapped cartouche-shaped nozzles above elaborate foliate drip-pans, the central branch centred by a bee drinking nectar from a flower head, the backplate terminated by a scrolling foliate and floral boss
Paris, date circa 1745
Height 76 cm, width 50 cm. each.
These rare and magnificent wall-lights are among the most elaborate works from the Louis XV period. Of intricate Rococo design, rarely does one find such abundant and detailed floral displays as well as such an overall sumptuous design, which together with the inclusion of a bee on each of the main branches makes them extremely rare. It is however not unusual to discover a completely new model and perhaps because of this and the addition of the prominent insects it is probable that they were made as a special commission. Possibly they were made for one of the Barberini family whose family emblem was the bee.
Retaining their original mercury gilding, their quality of modelling, casting and chasing as well as specific details such as the typical eighteenth century four-leaf clover-shaped nuts in addition to their overall design accords with the style and superb craftsmanship associated with Jacques Caffiéri (1678-1755). One of the leading fondeur-ciseleurs and sculptors to work for the French court under Louis XV, he delighted in creating the most ornate and complicated Rococo works which, as here, often included detailed botanical details as well as insects and creatures. In terms of their style one can compare them to other works attributed to him, notably a pair of two-light wall-lights now in the Wrightsman Collection, New York, which, bearing a C-couronné poinçon, date between March 1745 and February 1749. Though less elaborate than the present pair, the Wrightsman wall-lights are of similar asymmetrical design and are likewise centred by a fabulous creature, namely a dragon which has its tail wrapped around one of the branches.
Further comparisons can be drawn between another pair of three-light wall-lights again attributed to Jacques Caffiéri, dating from circa 1750 which are now housed in the J. P. Getty Museum. Again slightly simpler in overall form they nevertheless have a foliate wrapped serpentine shaped backplate and branches as well as foliate nozzles and drip-pans, the central drip-pan being shaped as a sunflower while the lower part of the backplate, is as here, entwined with roses. Interestingly the latter pair was given by Louis XV to his daughter Louis-Elizabeth, wife of Don Philippe Duke of Parma for one of their north Italian palaces.
Jacques Caffiéri was one of the most important members of a prominent family of sculptors and metal workers. Of Italian decent, he was the son of the carver, sculptor and bronzier Philippe Caffiéri (1634-1716) who travelled from Naples at the request of Cardinal Mazarin and later was employed by the Crown at the Gobelins with an appointment as sculpteur de Roi. His tenth child Jacques Caffiéri was also a gifted in this field and was elected to the Académie de Saint-Luc as a sculptor and thus created many of the original designs for proprietary models for his foundry. He was also received as a maître fondeur-ciseleur shortly before 1715 and from then until his death was established at rue des Canettes. As a nephew of Louis XV's chief designer and painter Charles Le Brun, Jacques Caffiéri soon found good connections. From 1736 onward he was constantly employed by the Crown, being appointed fondeur-ciseleur des Bâtiments du Roi. As such he produced works for many of the royal palaces and counted among his prestigious clientele Queen Marie Leczinska, Louis XV's mistress Madame de Pompidou as well as his daughter Madame Elizabeth.
Caffiéri's most important royal commissions included the creation of a large astronomical clock after designs by C.-S. Passement for Château de Versailles, which was one of a number of highly decorative clock cases, counting among others his 'Triumph of Love' clock by both him and his son Philippe (1714-74). He was also responsible for two monumental Rococo chandeliers in gilt bronze, now in the Wallace Collection, London as well as two large gilt bronze mirror frames after designs by the architect A.-J. Gabriel, which Louis XV presented to the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire. Caffiéri also made furniture mounts, notably those for a commode by A.-R. Gaudreau made in 1739 for Louis XV's bedchamber at Versailles (now in the Wallace Collection) and probably for another similar commode for Compiègne. He was also responsible for the mounts of a chimney-piece in the Dauphin's apartment at Versailles, supplied in 1747 as well as two signed figures intended to be mounted on a cabinet probably for a princely German patron. He also proved to be a portrait sculptor of distinction, as evidenced by his busts of his patron, baron de Besenval and the latter's son as well as of baron de Brunstadt. Many of the world's most important collections own works by or attributed to him, which in addition to the above include the Residenzmuseum in Munich, the Cleveland Museum of Art and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.