Sold at Bukowskis, Stockholm, 25th May 2002, lot 1078. A private Monaco collection.
An extremely fine and rare Russian Empire gilt and patinated bronze ruby red and cut-glass crystal twelve-light chandelier, the surmounting corona ring formed from a cluster of glass droplets from which hang four outwardly scrolled branches supporting a patinated bronze ring mounted with alternate gilt bronze stars and lion heads, each holding a ring in its mouth, the ring suspending a circle of glass droplets and at centre a circular shaft supporting a conical-shaped ruby red glass vase above which are delicate curved branches hung with glass droplets, the vase headed by a gilt mounted patinated bronze border and supported by four scrolled branches, headed by griffon heads from whose beaks hang looped chains, and in turn support below a wider patinated bronze ring mounted above by four standing gilt bronze putti holding aloft in their hand a single upright stem with a ruby glass ring below a ring of clear glass droplets, the lower patinated bronze ring mounted around its body with pairs of gilt bronze putti holding a swag alternating with four gilt bronze lion heads, below each of which hang three upwardly scrolled candle branches each terminated by a circular drip pan and a foliate vase-shaped nozzle, the lower ring hung with glass droplets above pierced gilt and patinated bronze acanthus leaves above a foliate gilt bronze boss
Saint Petersburg, date circa 1800-10
Height 120 cm, diameter 90 cm.
This magnificent chandelier epitomises the fashion for sumptuous and glittering furnishings made for the Russian Imperial Court during the later years of the eighteenth and early nineteenth century. Unlike those chandeliers produced in France and England during this period, they often featured a combination of both coloured as well as clear crystal glass. Furthermore, the overall style with the delicate plume of scrolled overhanging gilt bronze branches suspending glass droplets closely relates to chandeliers made by Johann Adam Fischer, who was one of the most celebrated chandelier-makers active in Saint Petersburg between circa 1780 and 1820. He was one of several German born chandelier makers who began working in Saint Petersburg during the reign of Catherine the Great and like them introduced a pattern of chandelier known as 'Catherine' which existed in two basic forms. Firstly, as here, with a load-bearing central shaft with tiers of rings with branches and secondly the so-called basket-chandelier with cascades of drops and central coloured glass elements, as typified by one of Fischer's chandeliers dated 1800, which was sold at Christie's London 25th November 2008, lot 25.
Fischer's fame spread beyond Saint Petersburg when his chandeliers were also acquired by patrons in Moscow. Among them was Count Nikolai Petrovich Sheremetev, who in 1798 had installed one of Fischer's most unusual pieces in his picture gallery at Ostankino Palace which comprising four gilt bronze tiered rings, hung with crystal droplets and centred by four ruby red glass vases (illustrated in Igor Sychev, "The Russian Chandeliers", 2003, p. 65, pl. 321). It should also be noted that a chandelier similar to the present example can be found at Pavlovsk in Saint Petersburg and in the Appartamenti d'Inverno in the Palazzo Pitti in Florence, which is illustrated in E. Colle, "Palazzo Pitti, Il Quartiere d'Inverno" 1991; p. 82, no. 16805, while another comparable chandelier was in the collection of A. Dandois in Paris.
The integral ruby red glass vases and cut-glass crystal glass drops may well have been made by the Imperial Glass Factory in Saint Petersburg who used minerals mined from the Urals. The factory was renowned for the quality of its lead crystal glass, a technique invented in England by George Ravenscroft in the latter quarter of the seventeenth century but introduced into Russia by Yefrem Karamyshev, a master craftsman from the Imperial Glass factory who spent the years 1783-88 in England where he studied chemistry, minerology and glass-making. In addition to highly polished clear crystal, which was often multi-faceted, the Imperial factory created high quality coloured glass for which they were unrivalled in Russia and throughout Europe. This coloured glass was of a rich deep palette and included a range of hues from as here a golden ruby or crimson to purple, blue, green, turquoise, aqua marine, opal, black and jasper.
Before the introduction of gas lighting, during the long dark nights of eighteenth and nineteenth Russia, candle light was essential, especially in and around the outskirts of Moscow and Saint Petersburg. Thus we find that during this period countless numbers of chandeliers and other candle-lit lighting was introduced into Russia's more palatial buildings. For instance at Count Sheremetev's palace at Ostankino there were about five hundred different types of lights, all of different shapes and forms. Again in the Tauride Palace at Saint Petersburg, the inventory lists fifty six chandeliers and five thousand lanterns fitted with various coloured glass which involved some twenty thousand candles.