A PAIR OF LOUIS XVI GILT AND PATINATED BRONZE FOUR-LIGHT CANDELABRA, CIRCA 1780-85, ATTRIBUTED TO FRANÇOIS RÉMOND, PROBABLY SUPPLIED BY DOMINIQUE DAGUERRE |
- gilt bronze
de Bellaigue, G., The James A. de Rothschild Collection at Waddesdon Manor: Furniture, Clocks and Gilt Bronzes, vol II, 1974, p.696, fig 169;
Eudel, P., L'Hotel Drouot et la Curiosité en 1885-1886, Paris, 1887, p.282-284, 301;
Ottomeyer, H., & Proschel, P., Vergoldete Bronzen, Munich, 1986, vol I p.259;
Samoyault, J. P., Pendules et bronzes d'ameublement entres sous le Premier Empire, Paris, 1989, p.152, nr.129;
Hughes, P., The Wallace Collection, Catalogue of Furniture, vol III, London, 1996, pp. 1250 - 1254;
Jacobsen, H., Gilded Interiors: Parisian Luxury & the Antique, London, 2017.
François Rémond (1747-1812)
François Rémond, to whom these can be firmly attributed, was one of the most celebrated ciseleurs-doreurs during the Louis XVI period, working for a distinguished clientele which included, amongst others, Queen Marie-Antoinette, her brother-in-law the comte d'Artois, for whom commissions included the gilt-bronze provided for the Cabinet Turc at Versailles, the duc de Penthièvre and the Princesse Kinsky (see Baulez, C., ‘Le Luminaire de la Princesse Kinsky’, L' Estampille-L'Objet d' Art, no. 247, May 1991, pp. 84-99)
Born in Paris in 1747, he started his apprenticeship in 1763, entering the guild of doreurs, and therefore becoming a maître, in 1774, just two years before Louis XVI merged this with the guild of foundeurs. Thanks to the emergence of Rémond's account ledgers in 1983 (Archives Nationales du Monde du Travail, Roubaix, 183 AQ - Archives de François Rémond, doreur-ciseleur), it has been possible to associate this talented and prolific craftsman with works of his which, over the years, had been erroneously attributed to his contemporaries, notably to Gouthière. In fact, he worked closely with this maître ciseleur in the gilding of many of his major works, until Gouthière went bankrupt in 1786 but “In the light of what we know about Rémond and the quality of work he supplied, it seems unjust to leave him any longer in Gouthière’s shadow” (Jacobsen, H., op. cit., pp.5-6). Both were famed by their skill in producing pieces with the technique of matt gilding - ‘or mat’ - a work-intensive process that had been developed in the last decades of the century. This resulted in a luxurious and expensive finish, which intensified the contrast between the burnished and matt areas, and therefore underlining the sculptural qualities of the pieces.
The ledgers reveal that he received commissions from the most important cabinetmakers of the day, such as Jean-Henri Riesener and David Roentgen with whom he maintained a relevant partnership, supplying the German ébéniste with superior mounts for his furniture (see Baulez, C., "David Roentgen et François Rémond: Une collaboration majeure dans l’histoire du mobilier européen", L’estampille/L’objet d’art, no. 305, September 1996, p. 101). He also worked closely with the leading Parisian marchand-merciers, such as Charles-Raymond Granchez and Darnault brothers, eager to have the finest products to supply their aristocratic clientele. Nevertheless he worked particularly with Dominique Daguerre having delivered to him between February 1778 and August 1792 goods including candelabra, firedogs, furniture mounts, etc., which amounted to approximately 920,000 livres, an extraordinary amount at the time.
The present lot is of a particularly successful model by Rémond – an ovoid body with a frieze, twin handled, flared neck issuing branches - to which he introduced several variations. As mentioned by Jacobsen, “(…) Rémond supplied candelabra and girandoles to Daguerre that appeared to be different for each client, but when they are examined more closely it is clear that a standard group of motifs was often used in differing combinations to achieve an overall effect of uniqueness which would satisfy a demanding buyer. Accounts from the comte d’Artois in 1788 noted Daguerre as a marchand de girandoles (candelabra retailer), so evidently these were a major and successful element of his business” (Jacobsen, H., op. cit., pp.5-6).
The variation in this case can be distinguished by the cockerel-headed scrolling branches, and is replicated in a pair of gilt and patinated bronze sold Palais Galliera, 8 June 1971, (Collection de Baronne X, unknown location). This pair does not have the floral sprays seen here or the lower step to base. One other pair with cockerel’s heads, but with gilt bronze bodies, is also mentioned but not illustrated, in a catalogue note (Christie’s, 6 December 2012, lot 171) as previously in the collection of the statesman and consummate diplomat Duc de Tallyrand at Chateau de Valençay. This example also lacked the second step to base.
Finally, a pair was sold in 1886 from the Collection Ernest de Lafaulotte (d.1872), at Hotel Drouot, Paris 5-13 April, lot 875 (fig.1). This pair seems virtually identical to the present pair, with floral sprays, double stepped beaded plinth and the central stem with the same boldly cast entwined foliage. This example from the politician and Vice President of the Conseil Municipal of Paris was one of the highlights of his sale, being rightly mentioned by Paul Eudel in his recap of the major sales of the year at Hotel Drouot. The candelabra were there described as “deux grands candélabres du temps de Louis XVI, composés chacun d’un vase ovóide en bronze verdâtre, avec monture de bronze doré, à frise ornée de rosaces découpés a jour, anses à tête de femmes, les lumières formées de quatre branches reposant sur des têtes de coq (…) (Eudel, op. cit., p.301). It is tempting to believe these as the same as in the present lot - which is not inconceivable - as the only difference from the descriptions is the tone of patination - verdatre, which can be read as greenish, and possible variations on the arrangement of the floral sprays. As there are no apparent signs of a previous green patination on our pair it is therefore unlikely at this stage that we are looking at the same pair. The Lafaulotte candelabra were acquired by the Vicomtesse de Courval for 12,000 livres and remained with her descendants Ducs de Mouchy and Princes de Poix until the end of the 20th century.
Other variations of the model are in important institutional collections such as the pair at the Rothschild Collection at Waddesdon Manor (Bellaigue, p.696, fig.169) (fig.2) which only differs from the pair here in study in lacking the cockerel’s heads and extra step to plinth.
The pair at the Château de Fontainebleau was acquired from the dealer Legendre in 1804 for the visit of Pope Pius VII to the chateau on the occasion of Napoleon’s coronation as Emperor. (Samoyault, fig. 129). It differs from the present lot for lacking the floral sprays and again for the scrolling branches not having the supporting cockerel’s heads.
A pair in the Wallace Collection, with candle arms in the form of Egyptian masks, can be associated with candelabra delivered by Rémond in 1785 to the celebrated marchand-mercier Dominique Daguerre, described as ‘une paire de girandole à Vase et Branche à tête' (Hughes, pp. 1250-1254)
Also with Egyptian-form arms but with a differing frieze at the centre of the vase (illustrated in Sargentson, 2008, pp. 172-3, cat. 66), a pair in the Huntington Collection, California, was once in the collection of Alfred of Rothschild. It is nonetheless of inferior quality as the examples above and probably not by the workshop of Rémond which proves at least the success of this particular model.
One more example, with Egyptian heads supporting the nozzles and eagle heads ending the branches, was sold at Christie’s from Wrotham Park (London, 10th December 1992, lot 212), home of an impressive collection of French Furniture acquired by George Byng in the early 19th century, following the collecting footsteps of the Prince Regent.
On close inspection, the present lot is striking for the exceptional quality of the gilt-bronze, as demonstrated with the naturalistic chasing seen clearly in details such as the vine leaves, the cockerel’s heads and the bold entwined foliage to central stem. There are slight differences in chasing in certain elements of the two candelabra, probably showing different hands working in Rémond’s workshop. The gilding surface, burnished and matt, elegantly balances the grandness of the model, elevated with the double stepped plinth. Important, and always considered statements of wealth, candelabra like these were also functional, and part of a carefully thought decoration, where every element, from lighting to panelling, from upholstery to the tones of gilding were exquisitely balanced in a harmonious display.