A LOUIS XV ORMOLU AND ROCK-CRYSTAL EIGHT-LIGHT CHANDELIER
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A LOUIS XV ORMOLU AND ROCK-CRYSTAL EIGHT-LIGHT CHANDELIER

MID-18TH CENTURY, THE ROCK CRYSTAL FURTHER ADDED TO IN THE LATE 18TH CENTURY AND WITH SOME LATER REPLACEMENTS

Details
A LOUIS XV ORMOLU AND ROCK-CRYSTAL EIGHT-LIGHT CHANDELIER
MID-18TH CENTURY, THE ROCK CRYSTAL FURTHER ADDED TO IN THE LATE 18TH CENTURY AND WITH SOME LATER REPLACEMENTS
The central shaft fitted with faceted elements surrounded by an open cage issuing eight S-scrolled branches with floral-shaped drip-pans and nozzles hung with large pear-shaped drops, some of them faceted, flanked by further branches surmounted by daggers and moulded baluster-shaped ornaments, the upper section with numerous branches issuing further drops, the central shaft probably a Louis XVI addition, restorations and replacements
60 in. (153 cm.) high; 33 in. (84 cm.) diameter
Provenance
Madame Consuelo Vanderbilt Balsan, Hôtel de Marlborough, 9 Avenue Charles-Floquet, Paris.
The René Fribourg collection, III, part 1, sold Sotheby's London, 28 June 1963, lot 150.
Literature
L.-H. Prost, Collection de Madame et du Colonel Balsan, Paris, privately printed, circa 1930, (probably that reputedly from Versailles illustrated in situ in the Salle à Manger of the hôtel Marlborough, Paris).
Special notice
No VAT will be charged on the hammer price, but VAT at 17.5% will be added to the buyer's premium, which is invoiced on a VAT inclusive basis.

Lot Essay

Of exceptional rarity and expense, rock crystal chandeliers appear only occasionally in 18th century sale catalogues and inventories. Perhaps the earliest recorded-reference in France is in 1697, when Louis XIV offered twelve grand 'lustres' in 'cristal de roche' to the King of Siam. Louis XV also possessed a chandelier with twelve branches in his chambre a coucher at Versailles which had been delivered by Delaroue and Slodtz. This was commented on by the duc de Luynes: 'on a mis dans la chambre du roi, un chandelier en cristal de roche d'une grande beauté et que l'on estime au moins a 100 000 livres'.'
In June 1749, Bouret de Villaumont bought un lustre de cristal de roche monté en lyre à six branches for 4,690 livres. This seems cheap in comparison to the 'grand lustre' owned by the marquise de Pompadour at Bellevue, for which Lazare Duvaux charged 30 livres in 1752 just for replacing one bobèche.
In 1756, a magnificent
lustre with six lights fetched 16,000 livres in the duc de Tallard sale. Twenty years later, that with eight branches from the collection of Blondel de Gagny fetched 18,000 livres. Bearing in mind the rarity of these princely chandeliers in 18th Century sales - and the fact that they tended to be of similar design save for the number of branches - it is not inconceivable that the Champalimaud chandelier is one and the same as Blondel de Gagny's.
A further rock crystal chandelier was included in the sale of the marchand Julliot in 1780 and the extensive description again underlines the esteem in which these princely possessions were held in the 18th century. It fetched 15,000 livres to the lustrier ordinaire du roi Alexis Delaroue. Finally, in 1793 a rock crystal chandelier ordered in Paris fetched the astronomical sum of 38,000 livres.

The premium paid for 18th century rock crystal chandeliers traditionally continues into the 21st century, with the 32-branch chandelier reputedly from the hôtel de Chanaleilles, sold from the collection of Baron de Rédé at the hôtel Lambert, Sotheby's Paris, 16 March 2005, lot 134. Interestingly this was stamped with the C couronne poinçon suggesting that it was either made or resold circa 1745-49.

A closely related pair of Louis XV ormolu and crystal chandeliers, 40in. high, possibly by the same workshop, was sold by Major Sir John Fitzgerald, Bart., M.C., Knight of Kerry, Christie's London, 22 June 1950, lot 95.

Like many mid-18th Century chandeliers, which were sparer in design, the Champalimaud example has been updated and embellished with the addition of further rock crystal, particularly the central shaft, in the later 18th Century.


ROCK CRYSTAL

Rock crystal is in reality a quartz. A material of exceptional hardness with an indices of light refraction close to that of a diamond, quartz has been mined and worked since antiquity. In the Middle Ages, this rare material was used almost exclusively on religious objects. A prohibitively expensive material, Cristal de roche was first mined in France in small quantities in the 17th century and its rarity forced artisans to innovate. The imitation of cristal began in Venice in the 15th century - the art of the glassmaker being to recreate the limpidity and luminosity of rock crystal. To do this, the glassmakers invented a 'crystal' made in reality of glass combined with a mixture of potassium, silicon, manganese and lead oxide heated to between 1200 and 1500 degrees. This crystal imitated rock crystal, although it displays a metallic colouring. This crystal de roche should not be confused with what is now called crystal. The latter was a development of 18th century Bohemia and, subsequently France with the Manufactures Royales de cristaux. It is only rock crystal, that noble and rare material, which today retains its prestige and value.

Rock crystal first appears as small beads on candelabras and chandeliers - not yet called lustres - in the 17th century. At the beginning of the 18th Century the discovery of new seams in Central Europe allowed the mining of larger blocks of crystal, which could in turn be worked into pyramids, drops and stars. The highest value was historically based, like diamonds, on two things - the weight and the clairty or limpidity of the cristal. The clearer the better, hence the phrase d'une tres belle eau when referring to cristal.


MADAME JACQUES BALSAN

This chandelier was formerly in the Collection of Consuelo Vanderbilt, Madame Jacques Balsan. The daughter of William Kissam Vanderbilt and Alva Smith Belmont, Consuelo became a celebrated debutante at her parents' Newport residence, Marble House, where in August of 1895 she met Charles Spencer-Churchill, 9th Duke of Marlborough. She married the Duke that autumn and returned to England to live at Blenheim Palace. She separated from the 9th Duke in 1905 and was officially divorced in 1920. The following summer she married the French aviator, Jacques Balsan. Settling in France, they divided their time between the splendid 17th century Château de Saint-Georges-Motel, near Eure, Normandy and the hôtel Marlborough, Paris, both of which they filled with exceptional French furniture and works of art of the ancien regime. The privately printed catalogue fo the Hôtel de Marlborough includes numerous chandeliers in both rock crystal and crystal of very closely related design. It is extremely difficult to determine from these early in situ photographs categorically which is the Champalimaud chandelier, although it appears to be closest to that reputedly from Versailles in the salle à manger.

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