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By Beurdeley (French, founded 1818)
The artistic talent of Louis-Auguste-Alfred Beurdeley, evident in this monumental pair of gilt and patinated bronze candelabra, is truly astonishing.
‘War’ and ‘Peace’ are the twin themes of this truly astonishing pair of candelabra, the work of master French cabinetmaker Louis-Auguste-Alfred Beurdeley (1808-1882). Each candelabrum has nineteen gilt bronze lights, each of which takes the form of a scrolling tree branch, complete with leaves and tulip-bud form candleholders.
Beurdeley was one of the most important craftsmen of his time, creating exceptional 19th Century pieces of furniture inspired by the beauty of the 17th and 18th Century pieces. Although based in Paris, he worked especially for important American patrons, including the Rothschild and Vanderbilt families. In Europe, Louis-Auguste-Alfred received commissions from the family of Emperor Napoleon III.
The Beurdeley family name would later go down in history as an important cabinetmaking dynasty: Louis-Auguste-Alfred’s father, Jean Beurdeley (1772–1853) was also an ébéniste, while his son Emmanuel-Alfred Beurdeley (1847-1919) was one of the most important furniture makers and collectors of the Belle Époque.
Beurdeley’s genius lay in beautifully updating the design styles of the 18th Century for the modern age. Here the candelabra, in their size, materials, and allegorical content, have been designed to evoke the magnificent luxuriousness of the Baroque era, and in particular the splendour of the Palace of Versailles under the French ‘Sun King’ Louis XIV (reigned 1643-1715).
Gilt bronze objects symbolising war and peace adorn the lower part of the candelabra stems: the candelabrum representing war shows a helmet, a sword, a quiver of arrows and a classical mask inside a crescent moon; while the candelabrum representing peace shows a cornucopia (a horn of plenty, a symbol of abundance in classical art), a bundle of wheat, and a lyre.
While the ‘peace’ candelabrum signals abundance, prosperity, and joy, the ‘war’ candelabrum signals devastation and violence. The late 19th Century in France, in the period between the Franco-Prussian war of 1870 and the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, was a time of relative peace in Europe, which is one reason why the era is known as the ‘Belle Époque’, or ‘beautiful age’. These candelabra should be seen as a celebration of peace, prosperity, and luxury.
Each candelabra stem is flanked by two exquisitely cast patinated bronze winged putti, or cherubim, shown holding various objects and supported by a circular gilt bronze socle which is decorated with acanthus and laurel leaves, above a square base with canted edges. Finally, each candelabrum is set on a square veined black marble plinth.
After their creation and sale around the year 1898, these candelabra next appeared in the collection of Eve and William Fox, the founder of Fox Film Corporation. Eve bought the candelabra in 1928 for the opening of the Fox Theater in San Francisco, a ‘movie palace’ designed to seat 5,000 people.
Candelabra: Height 184cm, width 95cm, depth 89cm
Plinths: Height 89cm
Acquired by Eva Leo Fox for the Fox Theatre in San Francisco
The California Historical Society
Bonhams San Francisco, October 31, 2011, lot 1266
Camille Mestdagh, L'Ameublement d'Art Français: 1850-1900, Paris, 2010.
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