main image
Pair of candelabra and stands bearing the arms of the dukes of Richmond
Purchase, Irwin Untermyer, by exchange, 2016
Episode 5 / 2017
First Look

The candelabra were produced by London's most successful retail silversmith, Rundell, Bridge and Rundell, which dominated the early nineteenth-century market for luxury goods, selling gold boxes, silver, bronzes, jewelry, and regalia..."

The ornament on these very grand candelabra is an exuberant fusion of imagery derived from Egyptian sources. Cast in bronze which was then heavily gilded, the candelabra were tooled to heighten the contrast between a soft, matte finish and a brightly polished one, creating a shimmering effect that would have been enhanced by candlelight. They were one component of an extraordinary Egyptian-style dining room that was designed between 1802 and 1806 for Goodwood House, near Chichester in southern England, the home of the dukes of Richmond. The walls of the room were lined with highly polished scagliola (a composite material imitating marble), and the chairs (a set of twenty) were fitted with gilt-bronze mounts in the form of crocodiles. The room was designed by the architect James Wyatt (1746–1813), who is best known for his work in the Greco-Roman and Gothic styles. The candelabra, two from a set of four, must have been purchased for Goodwood by Charles Lennox, 3rd Duke of Richmond (1735–1806), whose family arms are incorporated into the rim of the candelabra stands. Like other aristocrats of his generation, he had studied the ancient world while traveling on the Continent for the Grand Tour. The candelabra were produced by London's most successful retail silversmith, Rundell, Bridge and Rundell, which dominated the early nineteenth-century market for luxury goods, selling gold boxes, silver, bronzes, jewelry, and regalia.

The enthusiasm in England for all things Egyptian was first ignited by Napoleon Bonaparte's North African campaign of 1798. Napoleon was accompanied there by a team of scholars who recorded their findings, and the resulting publication by Baron Vivant Denon on the monuments of the Nile Valley had a marked influence on design. The duke of Richmond's acquisitions were very likely swayed by the tastes of George, Prince of Wales (later George IV; 1762–1830). Among the prince's lavish expenditures was a vast silver table service in the Egyptian taste, a conscious reference to a glorious past and to Britain's global aspirations.

Ellenor Alcorn
Curator
Department of European Sculpture and Decorative Arts
Made possible by Bloomberg

The Metropolitan Museum of Art LogoEmail

Type the CAPTCHA word: