Lot 12
  • 12

A pair of George III ormolu candlesticks, attributed to Diederich Anderson, after a design by William Chambers circa 1765

50,000 - 80,000 GBP
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  • bronze
  • 31.5cm. high, 14cm. wide; 1ft. ½in., 5½in.
in the form of a chimera supporting a flower cast candle-holder and drip-pan on its head, the breast set with an oval medallion and on a plinth base with sectionalised Greek key pattern decoration, possibly with chains missing to medallions, the tails missing


N. Goodison, Ormolu: The Work of Matthew Boulton, London, 1974
J. Harris and M. Snodin, eds., Sir William Chambers: Architect to George III, New Haven, 1996


A rare and very fine pair of candlesticks. As stated in the catalogue the candle sticks are missing their garlands and tails. They are also missing a small element that firs below the drip pan and would raise them above the wings. Some minor rubbing to the gilding. One drip pan is slightly misshapen. The threads to the smaller elements have been replaced to keep the piece secure. Apparently with original gilding - the chasing is exceptional.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

The design of these magnificent griffin candlesticks has for a long time been given to William Chambers (1726 – 1797), court architect to George III. Their design appears in Chambers’ third edition of Treatise on the Decorative Parts of Civil Architecture, 1791 in which he describes the plate as containing 'ornamental utensils, designed for the Earl of Charlemont, for Lord Melbourne, and for some decorations for my own house'. A presentation drawing by his pupil between 1764 – 71 John Yenn (d. 1821) predating the Treatise shows an earlier version of the design with some minor variations, such as the frieze to the plinth. (both reproduced here)

Sir William Chambers was a Scottish architect whose practice was a significant rival to that of his countryman, Robert Adam (1728-1792). Born in Gothenburg, Sweden, where his father was a merchant, the young Chambers found employment with the Swedish East India Company. On his return to Europe he studied in Paris under the architect Jacques-François Blondel (1705-1774) and with Charles-Louis Clérisseau (1721-1820), the influential architectural artist and antiquary, and finished his education with a five-year sojourn in Italy before setting up as an architect on his own account in London in 1755. It was during this time in Europe that Chambers surely picked up his predilection for the Franco-Italian style. The present lot was possibly adapted from the seated sphinx that Chambers would have undoubtedly encountered numerous times whilst in Rome.

An introduction to the Royal household by the then Earl of Bute won Chambers the post of tutor of architecture to the Prince of Wales, the future George III. Chambers's reputation was further increased by the recurring appearance of his Treatise on Civil Architecture, first published in 1759 and repeated until the end of the 18th century. Among the most important work undertaken by the firm was the construction of the imposing Somerset House in London and their additions to Blenheim Palace including the Grand Saloon.

As part of the Blenheim commission Chambers supplied decorative items of the highest quality for the interiors of the palace. A pair of griffin candlesticks included in this commission act as a superb comparison for the present lot. Both Sir Nicholas Goodison and Hilary Young (Harris, op cit, pp.160 and Goodison, op cit, pp. 85) state that the Blenheim candlesticks would have been executed by Diederich Nicolaus Anderson and not Mathew Boulton as was once thought. Recent scholarship and an examination of the personal correspondence between Anderson and Chambers reveal that Anderson was Chambers’ preferred metal worker for the most important and intricate casts, until his untimely death in 1767, and would have been responsible for the present lot.

The present lot forms part of a group of just six known pairs, the others including: Two pairs sold anonymously at Christie's, New York, 19 April 2001, lot 250 ($116,500); and Christie’s, London, 12 November 1998, lot 5 (£155,500); the Blenheim pair already mentioned above; a fourth pair with Egyptian porphyry bases with the National Trust, Hinton Ampner House, Hampshire (illustrated in J. Harris and M. Snodin, ibid, p. 162, fig. 242); and a pair sold Sotheby's Florence, 6-7 April 1987, lot 590. Each is remarkably similar to the present pair with only minor differences. Each of the other pairs retains their garlands and tail. The Blenheim pair were later mounted upon white marble bases by Benjamin Vulliamy when they were regilt in 1787, and as neither Chamber's design nor Yenn's drawing depict such a base, it may be safe to assume that the candlesticks were not originally intended to be mounted.