An extremely fine pair of Louis XVI gilt and patinated bronze three-light figural candelabra, each composed of a patinated bronze vase mounted by a pair of gilt bronze ram’s head handles linked by tied swags that are draped around the body of the vase, with a Vitruvian scroll around the upper part of the body, the neck of the vase mounted with corn husks below foliate volutes forming a basket from which issues abundant grapes, fruit, roses and other flowers and from which issue a central upright thyrsus with pinecone finial, entwined with fruiting and foliate vine trails, the thyrsus standing above three serpentine-shaped foliate-wrapped candle branches, each terminated by vine leaf clusters and issuing a vase-shaped candle holder with a foliate base and circular rim and hung with beaded swags. The main patinated vase below with an elaborate pierced foliate cup resting on a circular panelled pedestal with beads to the top and foliate border below, the base with raised panels ornamented with corn husks, which are interspersed by larger inset panels with foliate scrolls and grape clusters, the whole upon a plain square foot
Paris, date circa 1785
Height 67 cm, diameter of the base 13 cm. each.
With their overt reference to Antiquity this handsome pair of late eighteenth century Parisian candelabra epitomise the French Neo-classical taste. Ram’s heads, such as we see here, often decorated athéniennes – an urn or burner supported on tripod stands that was based on ancient prototypes and which were often replicated by the Parisian designers from the 1770s onward. The main subject here however is the vine harvest and its association with Bacchus, the ancient god of wine. In Antiquity, followers of Bacchus celebrated the deity holding thyrsuses, a pinecone tipped rod as a symbol of fertility and as such became one of his attributes in art. Bacchus was also often portrayed accompanied by satyrs, goats and other cloven hoofed animals, hence the depiction here of ram’s heads.
The three-candle branches entwined with vine sprays can be compared to those held by a pair of gilt bronze Bacchantes (female worshippers of Bacchus) attributed to Joseph-Charles Marin (1759-1834), that feature on a pair of Louis XVI candelabra in the Wallace Collection (illustrated in Peter Hughes, “The Wallace Collection Catalogue of Furniture”, 1996, vol. III, pp.1276-81, no. 251; F148-9). A pair of similarly styled gilt and patinated bronze candelabra of the same period but with female heads rather than ram’s head handles were acquired by Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild and are now at Waddesdon Manor (illustrated in Geoffrey de Bellaigue, “The James A. de Rothschild Collection at Waddesdon Manor”, 1974, vol. II, p. 697, no. 169.)