The Hungarian Princess Kinsky's elegant Ionic tripods for vases or torchères reflect the 1770s fashion for enlivening the corners of grand 'Salons', after the Antique or Pompeian manner, with multi-tiered Roman 'candelabra' such as featured in the Italian architect/antiquarian G. B. Piranesi's, 'Vasi, candelabri, cippi, sa rcofagi, tripodi, lucerne, ed ornamenti antichiti', Rome, 1778.
Here Grecian 'baguettes' of laurels, evoking the sun-deity Apollo's triumph as leader of the Mt. Parnassus Muses of artistic inspiration, crown the torch-tapered urns, which are enriched with palm-flowers and strigil-flutes and issue from the top of the flower-garlanded Ionic pillars. The latters' sacrifical 'altar-tripod' plinths evoke ancient festivities and Love's triumph according to the Roman adage, 'Sine Baccho et Cerere frigit Venus'. Bacchic 'thyrsus' coned vases cap their Roman truss-scrolled pilasters, which incorporate the heads and monopodiae of bacchic lions. While the harvest-deity Ceres' garlands of fruit and flowers issue from their wave-scrolled volutes, which are imbricated with dolphin-scales and recall the water-carriage of Venus. While harking to the Louis Quatorze 'Roman' fashion, their elegance also recalls Pompeian bronze furniture. Their architecture reflects the influence of Jean-Louis Prieur (maître in 1769).
These formed part of a set of four stands commissioned for the 'Salon de Musique' following the building in 1770 of the hôtel, in rue St-Dominique, Paris for the Comtesse Marie-Léopoldine Pálffy, Princess Kinsky (d.1794).
THE HÔTEL KINSKY
In 1769 Elizabeth-Olive de Lamoignon approached the famous architect Claude-Nicolas Ledoux (1736-1806) and asked him to find a location and build her a hôtel. A location was found in the faubourg Saint-Germain district and the mansion was built under the direction of Porquet and Gingault de Buffeix. Unfortunately Elizabeth-Olive de Lamoignon made little use of the hôtel as she died in 1773.
Her brother the président de Lamoignon, inherited the hôtel and on the 7th August 1773 it was rented to Marie-Léopoldine, Countess Palfy. On 9th April 1777 the Countess signed a life-long lease on the hôtel for the amount of 100 000 livres.
Princess Kinsky was born in 1729. She was the grand-daughter of Count Jean Palfy who had conquered the Turks in Belgrade. In 1748 she married Francois Joseph Kinsky. Several years after the death of her husband, while living in Vienna, she had an affair with the duc de Choiseul, then the French ambassador in Austria. When he returned to Paris, she accompanied him, however their relationship ended quickly. She decided to stay in Paris and settled in the hôtel, which would later carry her name.
In 1777, when the life-long lease was signed, the Countess employed Gilles-Paul Cauvet, Francois-Simon Houlie and Charles-Joachim Benard to revelop the interiors. The commission for these porte-torchéres was part of this project.
THE DESIGN OF THE PORTE-TORCHÈRES
The porte-torchères were designed by the sculptor and designer Gilles-Paul Cauvet (1731-1788). The original design of the porte-torchères is now in the Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg. There are several differences between Cauvet's design and the porte-torchères. In the drawing, the stem is wrapped around by a laurel garland and the base is embellished with musical instruments.
It is recorded that the carving of the porte-torchères was executed by Pierre Gontier, and the gilding by F. Mathon. These porte-torchères were designed for the Salon de Musique but were finally placed in the Salon de Compagnie. This room was situated on the ground floor overlooking the garden. It was decorated with a number of mirrors flanked by white-painted and parcel-gilt fluted pilasters. The porte-torchères were headed by candelabra in the shape of hunting horns. The furniture in the drawing room had been produced by Jacob and comprised four sofas, four armchairs and twelve chairs. The Princess Kinsky also ordered from the bronzier Gouthière two pairs of ormolu wall-lights with three branches in the shape of ribbon-tied lilies and roses. An account of the decoration of the hôtel is given by L. V. Thiery in his Guide des amateurs et des étrangers voyageurs à Paris, which was published in 1787. Interestingly, Thiery mentions the porte-torchères.
The Princess also purchased important ormolu works of art from the marchand-mercier Dominique Daguerre (see Christian Baulez, Le Luminaire de la Princesse Kinsky, in L'Estampille - L'Objet d'Art, May 1991, pp. 84-99). Several of these ormolu pieces were made by the bronzier François Rémond.
The Salon de Musique was the central room of the hôtel. The Princess owned several harpsichords and music played a paramount role in the her life. She regularly gave concerts, which were conducted by Leontzi Honauer (1730-1790). Honauer was a composer as well as a harpsichord player. He worked for the Princess for more than fifteen years and was housed by her in the hôtel.
The design of the porte-torchères is closely related to the music stand, which was also designed for the Salon de Musique. It was delivered in 1779, one year after the porte-torchères. The design, carving and the gilding of the music stand was executed by the same artists as the porte-torchères; Cauvet, Gontier and Mathon. The similarity of their design is particularly close in the base. This music stand is now in the château de Versailles. It is illustrated in Pierre Arizzoli-Clémentel, Le Mobilier de Versailles. XVIIe et XVIIIe Siècles. Vol. II, Dijon, 2002, p. 237
A pair of marble and ormolu girandoles, from the Salon de Musique were sold at Christie's Monaco, 15 June 1997, lot 91.
THE PRINCESS KINSKY
There are two known portraits of the Princess Kinsky. The first, a drawing by Louis Carrogis called Carmontelle (1717-1806), is now in the musée Condè in Chantilly. The second representation of the Princess Kinsky is on the ceiling of her Salon de Musique, which was painted by Simon Julien.
The French Revolution affected the life of the Princess surprisingly little. She dealt with the situation very cleverly: she bought cotton cocardes with the blue and red colours of the new born Republic, she erased her coat of arms from the ceilings and from her silverware and paid war tax. Not only did she survive the Revolution, but she also preserved her luxurious lifestyle. She made important changes to the garden giving it an Anglo-Chinese touch. A Chinese pavilion, an orangerie and a greenhouse were built. At the same time, she made important purchases of art works, especially from Daguerre, Guerard and Dihl. She also asked John Williams to buy works of art from auctions of the contents of the château de Versailles.
After the death of the Princess Kinsky in 1794, the hôtel particulier and its contents were returned to Lamoignon family. The family had fled the country after the Revolution and the state confiscated the hôtel and its furniture. Many of the contents were sold at auction starting on 27 February 1794. Unfortunately a catalogue was not published for this sale and subsequent sales.
In 1801 William Beckford rented the hôtel for three years and the 19th century saw a number of prestigious occupants, such as the maréchal Lannes (from 1801), the Duc de Gramont (from 1822), the Comte Reille (from 1832) and the Baron Seillière (from 1862). In the 20th Century, the hôtel was bought by the French State; interestingly, it was for a long time the office of the Direction de la Musique of the Ministère de la Culture. It is now a private residence.
Two of the set of four porte-torchères, are now in the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris. They were given to the museum by Peyre. The latter are illustrated in Seymour de Ricci, Louis XVI Furniture, London, 1913, p. 265.
THE HÔTEL LAMBERT
The present two porte-torchères were purchased by Jackie de Ravenel from the Collection of Baron Guy de Rothschild and Baron de Redé. They were removed from the hôtel and sold by Sotheby's Monaco, 25-26 May 1975. The hôtel Lambert is one of the most famous - if not the most famous - hôtel particulier in Paris. It is located quai Anjou, on the île Saint-Louis. It was designed by the architect Louis Le Vau and built between 1640 and 1644, originally for the financier Jean-Baptiste Lambert (d. 1644) and continued by his younger brother Nicolas Lambert. The interiors were decorated by the foremost painters Charles Le Brun and Eustache Le Sueur, producing one of the finest and most innovative examples of seventeenth-century domestic architecture and decorative painting in France. Both painters worked on the internal decoration for almost five years. In the 1740s, the Marquise du Châtelet and Voltaire, her lover, used the hôtel as their Paris residence. The Marquise was famed for her salon there. Later, the Marquis du Châtelet sold the hôtel Lambert to Claude Dupin and his wife, who carried on the tradition of the salon. In 1843 the palace was bought by members of the Czartoryskis family. Among the notable guests and patrons of the hôtel Lambert were some of the most notable artists and politicians of the epoch, including Frédéric Chopin, Honoré de Balzac, Hector Berlioz, Franz Liszt, Eugène Delacroix. Chopin's 'La Polonaise' was composed exclusively for the Polish ball held there every year. In the 20th Century the hôtel Lambert was discreetly split into several luxurious apartments; it was once the home of Mona von Bismarck and of the Baron Alexis de Redé - who lived on the ground floor from 1949 until his death in 2004. With Arturo Lopez-Wilshaw, Baron Alexis de Redé sought out appropriately splendid furniture and works of art, always chosen with great connoisseurship, for the magnificent enfilade of rooms, which were decorated with the help of Georges Geffroy and Victor Grandpierre. The hôtel was also famous for it's parties, among the most glamourous of the 20th Century. In 1956, the Bal des Tètes, was held at the hôtel launching the career of Yves Saint Laurent.