Augustin Barnabé de Mailly (1732 - after 1781)
- c. 1780
- Gilt-bronze and steel bolt
- Height: 30.1 cm
Diameter: 10 cm, base
- These candlesticks (F176-7) are repetitions of the candlesticks of gilt and patinated bronze on the inkstand in the Hermitage known as the Tchesme inkstand, designed for Catherine II, Empress of Russia (1729-96), by the goldsmith and enameller Augustin Barnabé de Mailly (1732-after 1781) to commemorate the Russo-Turkish war of 1768-74. Catherine ordered it in 1775 and it was delivered three years later; she gave it to her favourite, Count Alexis Orlov, who was credited with the Russian naval victory at Chesme. The gilding and probably the chasing of the inkstand was carried out by Nicolas Henry (master 1771).
Various elements of the inkstand were used subsequently as stand-alone designs, such as these cannon candlesticks. Another pair of candlesticks of this model, in gilt-bronze, is known, as are several pairs with slight variations and figures or cannons in patinated bronze. A drawing by de Mailly of the Chesme inkstand in St Petersburg shows flaming cannon-balls on the top of the muzzles, while another version of the candlesticks has gilt-bronze flames emerging from them which can be removed for inserting candles. The cannon-balls on top of the Wallace Collection pair may be nineteenth-century replacements for one of these original variants.
The chasing is of high quality, and may be also by Nicolas Henry. The dealer Claude-François Julliot (d. 1794), a marchand mercier, may have been responsible for producing repetitions of the candlesticks, if not the original commission of the inkstand; the sale of his stock in 1794 listed ‘trois petits modèles de flambeaux de cuivre ciselé non doré représentant des canons portés debout par des enfants’.