The Wallace Collection

The Wallace Collection, A Family Collection, A National Museum, An International Treasure House
  • Candlestick
  • Claude-Jean Pitoin (active between: c. 1778)
  • France
  • 1781
  • Gilt bronze and blue enamel
  • Height: 25.4 cm
    Diameter: 12.2 cm, base
  • F164
  • Study
Images & Media
Further Reading
  • This candlestick, one of a pair (with F165) of the highest quality, was delivered, together with another matching pair, in 1781 by Pitoin (master 1778) for the Cabinet de la Méridienne of Marie-Antoinette at Versailles. The present location of the other pair is unknown. Both pairs were part of the redecoration and refurbishing of the Cabinet de la Méridienne which was carried out in 1781 during Marie-Antoinette’s second pregnancy. The birth of the first dauphin of the reign, Louis (1781-89), is reflected in the dolphins on the candlesticks, and a tiny feur-de-lys is used as a repeated pattern in the trellis-work of the base.
    The casting and chasing is of superb quality, being comparable to the finest goldsmith's work. The gilding shows traces of having been in two tones of gold, the framework of the bases being redder than the yellow gilding of the trellis-work and of the dolphins. The high price of 1,500 livres per pair charged by the Pitoin workshop was no doubt in some part due to the gilding in ‘or mat’, the most costly of gilded finishes. The detail and refinement of the design and its execution are typical of the exquisite finish demanded by Marie-Antoinette, an exacting patron of decorative art.
    It is now known who produced the design, but it is likely that Richard Mique was involved. Mique was the queen’s favourite architect and had been responsible for the refurbishment of the room, and the candlesticks are entirely in harmony with the room he conceived. A practitioner of the neo-classical taste, Mique would have known ‘The Antiquities of Athens’ (1762), a book by the British architects Stuart and Revett which included an engraving of their reconstruction of the Choragic Monument of Lysicrates. The similarities between the base of these candlesticks and the reconstruction are striking, and suggest that someone with architectural knowledge had played a part in their design. The lozenge trellis of the base also evokes the apse of the Temple of Venus in Rome, another Antique design source that would have been well known to Mique.