Hortense de Beauharnais Queen of Holland (1783-1837), Château de Saint-Leu, Val d’Oise.
The Empress Eugénie (1826-1920), daughter-in-law of the latter, who gave the candelabra to her private secretary Franceschini Pietri (1834-1915) and listed in the inventory of the Baciocchi estate on the L’Ile-Rousse, Corsica, drawn up by René Morot, expert to the Tribunal of Nice, June 22nd 1924.
Hans Ottomeyer and Peter Pröschel, “Vergoldete Bronzen”, 1986, p. 285, pls. 4.14.13-14, illustrating respectively one of a pair of almost identical candelabra and an almost identical free standing patinated bronze bacchante sculpture, both in the Wallace Collection, London which were said to be after Clodion and date to circa 1780. Peter Hughes, “The Wallace Collection Catalogue of Furniture”, 1996, vol. III, pp.1276-81, no. 251 (F148-9), illustrating and discussing the almost identical pair in the Wallace Collection, the figures of which are reattributed by him as after a model by Joseph-Charles Marin and dated circa 1790; they differ in a few respects namely that one of the latter figures holds a cup rather than grapes andthe plinths, which are slightly shorter are of gilt bronze rather than marble and are decorated with putti and swags.
An important pair of Louis XVI gilt and patinated bronze and verde antico marble three-light figural candelabra after a model attributed to Joseph-Charles Marin, once housed at Château de Saint-Leu and stamped St L no 7, each formed as a beautiful patinated bronze bacchante in contraposto pose and with differing facial expressions, one crowned by vine leaves and the other with ivy, both wearing little except drapery entwined around her thighs with a bunch of grapes in one hand and holding aloft in the other a gilt bronze thyrsus with pinecone tip issuing three gilt bronze candle branches cast and chaste as vine sprays and terminated by vase-shaped nozzles with vine leaf-shaped drip-pans, both set against a patinated bronze tree stump, one with a gilt tambourine at the base each figure posed as if running with one foot on a circular gilt bronze mounted verde antico plinth with a beaded band above and foliate band below on a square gilt bronze base
Paris, date circa 1790
Height 92 cm. each.
The beautiful figures supporting the almost identical pair of candelabra in the Wallace Collection have long been described as being after Claude Michel, known as Clodion (1738–1814). However Peter Hughes’s scholarly analysis argues that they are more likely to be Clodion’s celebrated pupil Joseph-Charles Marin (1759-1834), an attribution which has been confirmed by Scherf (G. Scherf, “Autour de Clodion: variations, repetitions, imitations”, in “Revue de L’Art”, vol. 91, 1991p. 57). Hughes notes that a terracotta bacchante by Marin sold in Madame de Polès’ sale, Paris 1936 showed a similar pose and facial type to the one in the Wallace Collection which compares with our left hand and furthermore the inclination of her head as well as her half opened eyes and open mouth compares closely to the head of a terracotta Bacchante and Cupid with Childby Marin (Jones Collection, Victoria and Albert Museum, London).
Interestingly Peter Hughes also notes that a pair of candelabra, apparently of the same model as those in the Wallace Collection, was included in the sale of the marchand-mercier Dominique Daguerre held in London 1791 and thus it is likely that those in the Wallace as well as these were commissioned by Daguerre. Several other similar or near identical candelabra are known including pairs like these with verde antico plinths in the Hittroff collection, St. Petersburg and the Cheremeteff collection, Ostankino while a pair in the Musée Nissim de Camondo, Paris, has five-lights and similar plinths to those in the Wallace and another pair in the Bowes Museum, Barnard Castle England has again the same figures but six-lights and differing pedestals of gilt bronze and white marble.
As noted above the model for the bacchantes (the female followers of Bacchus whose attributes are associated with the mythological god of wine) were almost certainly after a model by Joseph-Charles Marin whose sensuous modelling emulated the graceful Rococo style of his master,Clodion. Born in Paris where he also died, Marin enjoyed a successful career working predominantly for private patrons and exhibiting at the Paris Salon from 1791 to 1833. The majority of his works are terracotta busts, statuettes and groups made in imitation of Clodion’s erotic female figures, but with an added touch of realism and a more marked variety of textures. Amongst them can be cited his celebrated marble of the Bather (Musée du Louvre, Paris) as well as Bust of a Girl (Musée Jacquemart-André, Paris) and models of Ganymedeand Hebe (Musée Bonnat, Bayonne). In 1805 Marin was elected a professor at the Académie de France in Rome and in the same year finished the more overtly classical marble tomb ofPauline de Montmorin, Comtesse de Beaumont (Santa Luigi dei Francesi, Rome), which had been commissioned by François-René, vicomte de Chateaubriand.
The importance of these candelabra cannot be overstated especially as they have a very significant history having been housed at Château de Saint-Leu, home to Louis Bonaparte, future King of Holland (1778-1846) and his wife Queen Hortense de Beauharnais (1783-1837) and as such bear the château’s stamp.During the early 1800s Louis Bonaparte selected the small village of Saint-Leu in the Oise valley as the place to live with his young bride, Hortense de Beauharnais whom he married in 1802. With a generous gift of 600,000 francs from his famous brother the Emperor Napoleon, Louis purchased the two chateaux of Saint-Leu and after demolishing the oldest one the couple moved into in the lower château surrounded by parkland remodelled by Louis-Martin Berthault, the landscape gardener of Malmaison and Compiègne. After he was crowned King of Holland in 1806 Louis rarely returned to Saint-Leu although Hortense continued to enjoy it and entertained there on a lavish scale. Having been bestowed the title of duchesse de Saint-Leu in 1814, the following year she was accused of aiding Napoleon’s return to power and was forced to flee Saint-Leu and initially lived with her sons in exile in Switzerland. The following year the estate was acquired by the duc de Bourbon, prince de Condé who settled there with his mistress until his mysterious death in 1830.
It is recorded that the candelabra were later owned by the Empress Eugénie (1826-1920), who in 1853 had married Hortense and Louis Bonaparte’s third and only surviving son Charles-Louis Bonaparte (1808-73) who the year before their wedding was crowned Emperor Napoleon III. Theirs was a happy marriage but endured years of political turmoil that eventually also forced them into exile. The Empress Eugénie then gave the candelabra to her private secretary, Franceschini Pietri (1834-1915), who had so admirably served her family for many years. Auditor to the council of state, private secretary of Napoleon III and Empress Eugénie, executor of the Prince Imperial, and General Counsel at L’Ile-Rousse, Pietri was also a great art collector and gathered a number of fine works, many of which came from the Imperial family, at his home on L’Ile-Rousse. He had joined Napoleon III’s office staff as a copyist when he was twenty one and when in 1864 the chief in staff Mocquard left his post, it was suggested that Pietri became the Emperor’s personal secretary, a position which was separate from the Emperor’s other personal staff. Pietri subsequently remained at his side for the next nine years, accompanying him on all his voyages and even into captivity in Germany and then into exile in England with the Empress Eugénie. After the Emperor’s death and up until his own death in 1915 Petrie fulfilled the same role for the Prince Imperial and the Empress Eugénie.