• Paris, c. 1787–8 
  • Bronze 
  • Inv. 18A/B

Wall candelabra (one of a pair)

Pièrre-Philippe Thomire

These candelabra have upright shafts and two branches that are decorated with delicately chased and gilded foliage motifs. Honeysuckle and other wild flowers appear alongside roses, creating an extremely light composition that ends in pine-cone finials. The openwork branches support gilded bobeches that suggest wicker baskets. 

Queen Marie Antoinette commissioned these candelabra in 1787–8 to decorate her bedroom, called du treillage at the Petit Trianon in Versailles. The entire décor was fundamentally a fine demonstration of how nature appeared in art and saved it from the sterility and rigidity of neo-classicism at a time when art was dominated by a ‘return to the antique’. The natural and apparently spontaneous way in which the plants are arranged around the candelabra, almost hiding their straight lines and symmetry, make them the epitome of what is widely now called the ‘Marie Antoinette style’.

Petit Trianon, Versailles (apartments of Queen Marie-Antoinette). Acquired by Calouste Gulbenkian from the Château des Chapelles estate sale, Hôtel Drouot, Paris, 15 December 1923 (lot4).

Verlet 1969

Pierre Verlet, Objets d’art français de la Collection Calouste Gulbenkian, Lisbonne, 1969, s. p., no. 17.

Meyer 1974

Daniel Meyer, 'Meubles et objets d’art des collections royalles à Versailles. I – À propos du mobilier de Marie-Antoinette au Petit Trianon', La Revue du Louvre et des musées de France, 1974, nos. 4–5, p. 279–83.

Baulez 1986

Christian Baulez, 'Pierre Gouthière 1732–1813', in Hans Ottomeyer, Peter Pröchel, Vergoldete Bronzen. Die Bronzearbeiten des Spatbarock und Klassizismus. Munich, 1986, pp. 607, 91.

Verlet 1987

Pierre Verlet, Les Bronzes dorés français du XVIIIe siècle. Paris: Picard, 1987, p. 44.

Versailles 2000

Chefs-d’oeuvre du musée Gulbenkian de Lisbonne. Meubles et objets royaux du XVIIIe siècle français, exhibition catalogue. Versailles: Châteaux de Versailles et de Trianon, 2000, pp. 90–1, no. 26.

Lisbon 2001

Calouste Gulbenkian Museum. Lisbon: Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, 2001, p. 151, cat. 127.

Updated on 09 june 2022

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