Ernest Dumonthier, “Les Bronzes du Mobilier National – bronzes d’éclairage et de chauffage”, 1910, pl. 16, no. 1, illustrating an almost identical pair of candelabra in the Palais de La Légion d’Honneur but with seven rather than ten lights and with slightly differing candle nozzles as well as candle branches formed as griffons and also lacking the surmounting oil burner; a note accompanying the illustration mentions that in 1809 the pair of candelabra, were in the Salon des Dames d’honneur de l’Empress Josephine at the Palais de Saint-Cloud. And pl. 18, no. 1, illustrating a pair of seven-light candelabra in the Ministére de la Marine with an angular plinth in place of the figures but surmounted by the exact same trio of back to back owls and the same tri-sided oil burner as well as ram’s heads at the corner of the angular plinth below. And pl. 19, no. 3, illustrating a candelabrum with five lights in the Hôtel de la Monnaie with an angled plinth surmounted by a sphere and three identical back to back owls supporting a vase and radiating candle branches. And pl. 27, no. 1, illustrating a seven-light candelabrum in the Palais de Trianon with tapering plinth surmounted by a sphere and the same three owls that support radiating candle branches and a surmounting vase.
Hans Ottomeyer and Peter Pröschel, “Vergoldete Bronzen”, 1986, p. 334, pl. 5.2.15, illustrating one of a pair of gilt and patinated candelabra of near identical form to these present pair except that the female figures have no surmounting vase or candle branches upon their heads.
An important pair of Empire gilt and patinated bronze ten-light candelabra attributed to Claude Galle, each composed of a patinated standing classical maiden with butterfly wings and plaited hair, wearing a long tunic gathered by tassels at her thighs above gladiator sandals, in each hand she holds a flaming torch and balances on her head a covered vase mounted with three Medusa mask heads from which each issue a scrolled foliate-wrapped candle branch terminated by a circular nozzle and drip-pan, the vase issuing above a further tier of six scrolled candle branches that encircle the vase cover composed of three owls standing back to back and collectively supporting on their heads a three-sided flaming oil lamp enclosing the tenth candle nozzle, each maiden standing upon a rectangular plinth headed at each corner by a ram’s head and mounted on the sides by a classical maiden either holding a lyre or pitcher and basin alternating with an elaborate mount featuring an Athénienne perfume burner flanked by pitchers above foliate scrolls and a pair of putti, the plinth resting on the backs of recumbent griffons upon a square concave-sided base
Paris, date circa 1805-10
Height 112 cm, diameter 37.5 cm. each.
Many of the symbolic motifs associated with Empire design are incorporated within these magnificent candelabra; such decorative elements include the caryatid maidens, Medusa masks, antique oil and perfume burners, lyres, pitchers as well as griffons, owls and butterfly wings. Furthermore many of the design elements are particularly associated with the work of the leading Empire bronzier Claude Galle (1759-1815), especially the complex overall design as well as the butterfly wings and the owls. Although one of his contemporary bronziers Louis-Auguste Hervieu (b. circa 1765 d. 1811) often included owls within his bronze work, the present arrangement of the three birds standing back to back is more commonly associated with Galle. In particular they relate to a pair of candlesticks decorated with three very similarly juxtaposed owls as well as griffons which Galle supplied in 1807 to the ‘2nd Salon de l’Impératrice’ in the Palais de Fontainebleau; the latter described as ‘une paire (flambeaux) en cuivre gaines rondes griffes et hiboux dorés or mat hauteur 29c’ (illustrated in J. P. Samoyault, “Pendules et Bronzes d’Ameublement entrés sous le Premier Empire”, 1989, p. 176, pl. 157). Galle also supplied another pair of candlesticks, likewise with owls to the ‘appartement de la dame d’honneur de l’Impératrice’ at Fontainebleau between 1804-5, while prior to that a document from his atelier dated August 1799 referred to “une pair de flambeaux à hibou”. Closely associated candelabra of circa 1805 and likewise attributed to Galle were sold by Christie’s New York, 26th October 2001 lot 333.
Although they did not include female caryatids they included many similar elements: each is composed of a triangular shaft supported on winged claw feet mounted at the upper angles and sides with ram’s heads upon which is a sphere supporting three almost identical owls from which issue foliate-wrapped scroll candle branches.