France, Louis XIV period, circa 1700
Chased and gilt bronze, crystal rock and blown glass
- Pair of girandoles, circa 1680–1690, Los Angeles, J.P. Getty Museum (inv. 85.DF.382)
- Pair of girandoles, circa 1680–1700, Los Angeles, J. P. Getty Museum (inv. 99.DF.46)
- Pair of six-lights girandoles, 18th century, New York, Metropolitan Museum (inv. 1989.22.2)
- Pair of girandoles, 17th century, Paris, Musée Carnavalet (inv. MB370‑1)
They each rest on a moulded circular base with an inverted doucine. On the lower dome, the central baluster shaft rises up to the plateau which supports the six S‑shaped light arms (mounted with pins) and are extended by circular basins each supporting eight faceted pear-shaped pendants ending in plain bobeche.
The branches are also ornamented and pierced on the edge with ornamental beads. The shaft rises up through a metal rod vertically surrounded by strings of facetted marbles and olives, up to the elaborate bronze top motif in the shape of a stylized cloverleaf. It is punctuated by three rouelles arranged in rays of decreasing length, each consisting of six stems dressed with twisted balls ending in a seven-petal rosette, at the end of which hangs a faceted pear.
The lower level is arranged obliquely and is attached to the barrel by small beads, some of which are made of green glass. The second level is made up of double stem rays (twelve), some of which are arranged horizontally and others obliquely, alternating around the barrel, each ending in a rosette and a pear. The slants are also held in place by small green and crystal beads. The third level with six stems arranged in a star shape ends with a faceted pear.
The girandoles in the 17th century
In the 17th and 18th centuries, this type of candelabra was called a girandole, because the arms are arranged around a central axis a bit like the spokes of a wheel. The term is derived from the Italian girare, which means to turn, and the girandola, a pyrotechnic device that turned like a horizontal wheel.
In 1690, in the Universal Dictionary of Furetière, the term girandole was defined as “a candlestick made up of several branches and basins which ends in a point, and which has a foot used to place it on sideboards or high pedestal tables”. It was adorned with rock crystal, glass or semi-precious stone beads to create a large number of reflective surfaces to produce as much sparkle as possible. These luminaires developed in the middle of the 17th century and appeared for the first time in French royal inventories around 1660.
Smaller girandoles, like these, were usually placed on flare tables or pedestal tables that ranged in height from 90 cm to 180 cm. They had from three to seven arms of light and were decorated with faceted rock-crystal plates and beads. Around 1670, rock crystal being expensive, girandoles and chandeliers were gradually made in France with glass elements, following the same models as those made of rock crystal; by the end of the century, glass had almost entirely replaced rock crystal. In the inventories of this period it is moreover difficult to say which material was used, as glass was called crystal in France.
This material was used to reflect the candlelight which, well-chosen and worked, “made the light play without any equivalent”.
Example of the acquisition of girandoles by Louis XIV
The register of the Crown’s furniture depository dated February 26, 1691 states the following:
« apporté de l’hôtel Colbert céans (ici) quarante girandoles de cristal à six branches et six bobèches et en haut une septième bobèche qui termine que le Roy a fait acheter à l’inventaire des meubles de feu monsieur le marquis de Seigneley (Colbert), … le Roy en a donné douze à S.A.R. Monsieur frère unique de sa Magesté, lesquelles douze girandoles j’ay aujourd’hui … délivré 19».
The other twenty-eight were sent to the mirror maker de La Roue to be modified and surmounted by a fleur-de-lys. They were then placed in the royal apartments of the Palace of Versailles.
After the casting of the silver furniture in 1689, Louis XIV had been presented with « des girandoles de cristal à six branches de cuivre doré à consoles, garnies de cristal, faites pour modèle pour la Grande Galerie de Versailles »20. At a ball given for the Duchess of Bourgogne at Versailles in 1700 « il y avait sur tous les pilastres les demi-girandoles à cinq branches d’argent. Ces girandoles… ont été nouvellement inventées par M. Bérain »21.
- Gillian Wilson, Charissa Bremer-David et Jeffrey Weave, “French furniture and Gilt Bronzes – Baroque and Régence”, Catalogue of the J. Paul Getty Museum Collection, The J. Paul Getty Trust 2008. N°33, pages 292 à 295.
- Peter Thornton, XVIIth century Interior Decoration in England, France and Holland, chapitre XI, p. 268 à 281, ill n°2 et 270 (p. 227) dessin illustré p. 298, Yale University press, New Haven et London, 1981.
- Height: 14 ¾ inches – 37,5 cm
- Diameter: 12 inches – 30,5 cm