France, Louis XIV – Régence period, circa 1725
Carved, pierced and gilt wood
- Unknown, Pair of torchères, former collection Tex and Jane Feldman until 1983
- Unknown, Pair of torchères, circa 1725, Malibu, J. Paul Getty Museum (inv. 71.DA.98)
- Unknown, Pair of torchères, former collection of the Baron Cassel Van Doorn until 1954
- Unknown, Torchère, circa 1700–1710, Paris, Musée des arts décoratifs (inv. 4325 A)
Each of the candlestands features a circular top, a tapered hexagonal shaft in the middle and a triangular base. The edge of the circular top is carved with a sinuous ribbon running all along depicting an alternation of fleuret frieze on a latticework background.
The top is supported by an inversed conical shaft, which is adorned with leaves, fleurettes and sides, set in alternation, then a hexagonal shaft paneled and carved on each one of them of enveloping shells, also applied on backgrounds of lattice work.
The latter is topped by a hexagonal and azured counter shaft, elevating from a triangular side, which superior part is adorned by a rognon-shaped cabochon resting on a bed of acanthus leaves facing upwards.
The edge of the sides on the front is decorated with leaf tips set against latticework and is curved into an arch shape on the three sides. Below each arch is tasseled lambrequin containing a foliate pendant set against large latticework. Three large pomegranates are arranged in alternation with the lambrequins.
At the top of the large hexagonal shaft is a torus molding and on the sides are three wide vertical and carved panels alternating with three narrower ones, all carved with foliate pendants and fleurets. The foliate scrolls on the narrower panels are repeated symmetrically above and below a flower bud in the middle against an azured background. On the wider panels, they rise above and below a truncated ionic pilaster on a large latticed and pointed background.
The hexagonal shaft rises from a pierced knob at the center of which is a three-shell overlying and stylized ornament. It rests on a concave, stepped, triangular base, the top of which is set with a feather collar set above a base with horizontal compartments with a décor of volutes and rosettes.
The shaft is supported by three scrolled legs with circular rosettes and striated surfaces, as well as acanthus leaves, jointed by double pierced base with a central rosette ornament. The overall rests on spinning top rectangular clogs and small plinths.
Candlestands of very similar character and size exist, including the Getty Museum’s pair, but none of the known surviving examples correspond exactly with the description of those of Versailles. However, two torchères, now at the Musée des arts décoratifs of Paris, approach in the richness of their ornamentation. The drawings and prints of Daniel Marot, published in the first decade of the 18th century, recall the silver candlestands made for the royal palaces in the 1680s.
The only other pair known of, very similar to the two pairs evoked before, figure in the Decorative Arts Museum in Oslo (Norway). These examples all vary slightly in size, ranging in height from 4 feet inches (134,5 cm) to 5 feet 8 ¼ inches (173,3 cm), the height of the Getty Museum’s pair.
The use of torchères
In France, during the 17th and 18th centuries, torchères were used mostly to support candlesticks, candelabras or girandoles, but they could also be used to present vases. The sources of the time indicate that this type of torchères was referred to as guéridons and for stands like these, which are more than 3 or 4 feet high, the term torchère was sometimes also applied. In 1690, Antoine Furetière’s Dictionnaire universel the term guéridon was defined as “room furniture, which is used to hold candlesticks, vases, etc. It is composed by a pillar or a column of wood or silver between two round elements, one below to support it, and the other to hold what is put on it.”
In 1696, the Dictionnaire de l’Académie lists the definition for torchères as: “a sort of guéridon much elevated on which we put a candlestick, a girandole or candles in the rooms of the palaces and great mansions” and more than half a century later, one of the definitions of torchère was “a sort of big guéridon which leg, triangular in shape, and the shaft, enriched of moldings, support a top to hold the lighting.”
They were made in pairs to flank similarly decorated tables and mirrors or were ordered in multiples to be placed against the walls or in the corner of a room.
Peter Thornton notes that they were made in several heights: from 2 to 3 feet high for the game tables around 3 to 4 feet high for average ones, and 5 feet high for use in large formal rooms.
This furniture element completes most commonly the lightning of the chandeliers but also permits to light without having to lighten the chandeliers which candles blacken the pictorial ornaments of the ceilings. Under Louis XIV, the torchères, most often in gilt wood, tortoiseshell or copper marquetry or even silver for the King is matched and forms part with the furniture composed of tables and guéridons. They then are constituted of a tripod base, supporting mythological characters, picturesque “moors or children forming real ronde-bosse sculpture, topped with a circular or octagonal top.
The engravings of the silver furniture realized under the patronage of Colbert and the artistic direction of Charles Le Brun for the Galerie des Glaces and the State appartments of Versailles as well as other royal castles illustrates in a great manner the effect obtained by the use of such furniture. The set of torchères was melted in 1689 to finance the wars and were replaced by carved and gilt wood torchères, evoking the evolution of shapes in the late 17th century. The mounts of the torchères indeed borrowed then the aspects of terms or carved sheaths as those described in 1690 in the royal inventories as “sixty large wood guéridons, carved and gilt, of 6 feet high, the leg of the three consoles, with a gilt iron triangle below to hold the consoles, the stem in a pierced sheath-shap with three shells above between three consoles which holds the top” or our pair which fall within this aesthetic. Under the Régence period, the use of torchères is becoming rarer in comparison to the preceding reign. However, ornementalists such as François de Cuvillès (1695- 1738) will, between 1720 and the years 1730, continue to promote such furniture
- Catherine Arminjon, Quand Versailles était meublé d’argent [catalogue de l’exposition], Paris, Réunion des Musées Nationaux, 2007.
- Burton B. Fredericksen, The J. Paul Getty Museum, London, Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1975, pp. 145.
- Daniel Meyer, Le mobilier de Versailles xviie et xviiie siècle, tome 1, Dijon, Édition Faton, 2002, pp. 48–49.
- Peter Thornton, Seventeenth-Century Interior Decoration in England, France and Holland, Yale, Yale University Press, 1981.
- Gillian Wilson, « The J. Paul Getty Museum, 6e partie Les meubles baroques », Connaissance des arts, n°279, mai 1975, pp.106.
- Gillian Wilson, Catalogue of the J. Paul Getty Museum Collection, French Furniture and Gilt Bronzes – Baroque and Régence, n°31, Los Angeles, J. Paul Getty Museum, 2008.
- Gillian Wilson et Catherine Hess, Summary Catalogue of European Decorative Arts in the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, J. Paul Getty Museum, 2002, pp. 56, n°108.
- Apollo, novembre 1989, pp. 315.
- Height: 175,5 cm – 69 1⁄8 inches
- Width: 70 cm – 27 ½ inches