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Decorated in contre partie Boulle marquetry, each with a circular top with a central floral medallion surrounded by scrolls and with a moulded rim with three satyr masks, above florally-garlanded Ionic capitals with acanthus sprays and turned spreading shaft with husk-trailed simulated fluting, on a foliate-wrapped cap and a baluster on hoof feet with foliate decoration and ram's masks to three sides, above a tripartite base with three inscrolled florally-decorated feet, headed by a palmette and divided by Apollo's masks in a scrolling cartouche, terminating in a foliate-decorated volute foot, each stamped 'LEVASSEUR' and 'JME', restored by Levasseur following the 1787 sale, at that time the ormolu rims and Satyr masks of the rims of the tops replaced and the arrangement of the mounts to the lower baluster vase element of the shaft slightly altered, one floral swag to the capital later
59½ in. (151 cm.) high; 15 in. (38 cm.) diam., the tops
Pierre-Louis Randon de Boisset, his sale, Paris, 27 February-25 March 1777, lot 794 (1300 livres to Feuillet for the comte de Vaudreuil).
Joseph-Hyacinthe-François de Paule de Rigaud, comte de Vaudreuil, (1740-1817) his sale, Paris, 26 November 1787, lot 362.
The 12th Earl of Pembroke, 7 Carlton House Terrace, London, his sale at Christie’s, 5-12 May 1851, lot 247 (160 gns £168 to Lord Normanton).
The Earls of Normanton, Somerley, Hampshire, and by descent at Somerley, until sold,
Christie’s, London, 21 June 2000, lot 30, where acquired by the present owner.
Special notice
Prospective purchasers are advised that several countries prohibit the importation of property containing materials from endangered species, including but not limited to coral, ivory and tortoiseshell. Accordingly, prospective purchasers should familiarize themselves with relevant customs regulations prior to bidding if they intend to import this lot into another country.

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Meredith Sykes

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Lot Essay

Conceived with striking ormolu mounts set against sumptuous brass-inlaid tortoiseshell marquetry these exceptionally elegant torcheres can be firmly attributed to the Ebéniste, Ciseleur, Doreur et Sculpteur du Roi, André-Charles Boulle (1642-1732). They closely resemble Boulle’s designs, preserved for posterity in the engravings by Mariette, and were intended as splendid supports for opulent candelabra. Highly priced throughout the 18th, 19th and indeed 20th centuries, the provenance of this particular pair can be traced back to the celebrated mid-18th century collection of Pierre-Louis Randon de Boisset (1708-1776) and is fully documented since then, featuring subsequently in the prominent British collections of the Earls of Pembroke and the Earls of Normanton.


The celebrated mid-18th century collection of Pierre-Louis Randon de Boisset included two almost identical pairs of ‘boule’ torchères, the only known of this particularly slender and elegantly elongated form. They were sold as consecutive lots in the landmark sale of his
collection in 1777 and fetched such spectacular prices at the time that both, the Randon de Boisset provenance and the remarkable prices were specifcally mentioned when both pairs were sold again ten years later from the collection of the comte de Vaudreuil
in 1787. At that sale the two pairs are separated, with the frst pair, in première partie subsequently entering the collection of the H Bingham Mildmay and the second pair, the pair offered here in contre partie, the collection of the 12th Earl of Pembroke.

Randon de Boisset was considered arguably the most famous 18th century collector in France. Initially a lawyer, he became part of a group of bankers who formed the Ferme Générale; extremely rich private individuals who imposed taxes of which a fxed sum was paid to the King. In 1758, Randon de Boisset retired from this position, dedicated 15 months to travelling in Italy. He formed a magnifcent
collection of works by living artists, such as by Boucher and Hubert Robert, and of paintings by Murillo, Rubens, Rembrandt and others, that amazed his contemporaries. Randon de Boisset never married and after his death in 1776 all his belongings
were dispersed. The 904 lots in the painting and works of art catalogue raised the staggering amount of 1,320,149 livres. Fifty-four pieces came from the workshop of André-Charles Boulle, and we know that he owned at least three pairs of Boulle
torchères: the Mildmay one, the one in the J. Paul Getty Museum, and the present lot. Numerous objects achieved extraordinary prices which would not be surpassed until the Revolution and it became a tradition until the end of the 18th Century that when
one of the pieces from the collection came up for sale again the provenance and the price were indicated in the catalogue. Amongst those who fought for his treasures were Catherine II of Russia, King Louis XVI, his brother the comte d’Artois, the ducs de Liancourt, Chaulnes, d’Aumont, de Rohan-Chabot and the duchesse de Mazarin.

In the sale of 27 February to 25 March 1777 both pairs of torchères were acquired by another noted 18th century connoisseur of Louis XIV Boulle furniture, the comte de Vaudreuil, and they subsequently re-appear in the sales following his death in 1787, where the two pairs are separated. The frst-sold pair, lot 361 in the comte de Vaureuil’s sale, in première partie, re-appears at auction at Christie’s about a century later, when they are sold from the collection of H Bingham Mildmay Esq., on 23 June 1893, lot 131, and have remained in private hands ever since; while the secondsold pair, the present pair in contre partie, enters the Parisian collection of an English connoisseur, the Earl of Pemroke.


The torcheres were then acquired by the 12th Earl of Pembroke, a prolific collector and Francophile. Many pieces from sale of his London collection at Carlton House Terrace were purchased by the 4th Marquess of Hertford and are now in the Wallace Collection. Peter Hughes describes him in the Wallace Collection catalogue as 'a reclusive expatriate with a Parisian residence in the place Vendôme, he seems to have been in several respects a precursor of Lord Hertford and was a significant source of French furniture now in the Wallace Collection, (P. Hughes, The Wallace Collection Catalogue of Furniture I, London 1996, p.30). After Lord Pembroke's death the contents of 19 place Vendôme, where he had lived since 1853, were sold in Paris in 1862 at Hotel Drouot and Lord Hertford was again an enthusiastic buyer. (op cit., pp. 37-38).

At the sale of the London house of the 12th Earl of Pembroke (1791-1862), Carlton House Terrace, they were purchased by Welbore Ellis, 2nd Earl of Normanton (1778-1868), Lord Pembroke's brother-in-law. Lord Normanton created the remarkable Picture Gallery at Somerley around 1850 and the extraordinary collection of old masters, French furniture and objects of art he had assembled are recorded by James Digman Wingfield and Joseph Rubens Powell in their atmospheric views of 1853 showing the Picture Gallery at Somerley (J. Cornforth, English Interior 1790-1848, The Quest for Comfort, London 1978, p. 84, figs. 94 and 95). The views show the diversity of Lord Normanton's taste and the great treasures he assembled, including the Madonna and Child by Parmigianino, now in the National Gallery, Titian's Venus and Adonis, now in the J. Paul Getty Museum, the famous table, with a petrified wood top from Marie-Antoinette's Méridienne at Versailles and the pietra dura casket-on-stand containing a Berlin porcelain cabaret from George Watson Taylor's sale at Erlestoke in 1832. Waagen writing after his visit in 1854 commented on the good proportions, the rich tasteful quality of the decorations and the excellence of the furniture (Waagen, supplement vol., p. 363 ff, Palaces of Art, Art Galleries in Britain 1790-1990, Dulwich Picture Gallery, November 1991-March 1992, no. E.4.)

In 1828 Lord Normanton had purchased the beautiful estate of Somerley, situated in the west of Hampshire, between the New Forest and the Dorset border. The house had been built in 1792-95 to designs by Samuel Wyatt for Daniel Hobson, a Manchester manufacturer and in 1811 the estate was acquired by Henry Baring who sold it in 1828. The great Picture Gallery added in 1850-51 was almost certainly designed by Lord Normanton himself. Christopher Hussey writing on Somerley in Country Life in 1958 paints a brilliant picture of Lord Normanton, 'he was among the keenest of the aristocratic group of collectors who in the late Georgian period assembled in this country so much of the artistic wealth which has not been transformed to America, and who protracted far into the 19th century the tastes and values of the 18th century.' (C Hussey, 'Somerley, Hampshire 1', Country Life, 16 January 1958, p. 110)


These remarkable torchères combine elements from two designs by André-Charles Boulle included in Nouveaux Deisseins de Meubles et Ouvrages de Bronze et de Marqueterie Inventés et gravés par André-Charles Boulle, chez Mariette, pl. 4, published in 1723. Described in Boulle's engraving as Guéridons or torchères pour une galerie such guéridons were conceived as meubles d'apparat for a gallery to support rock crystal candelabra. With their elegant balance of delicacy and sumptiousness the Randon de Boisset guéridons represent the apotheosis of a type of furniture that was to become increasingly rare as the 18th Century progressed.
The déclaration somptuaire of Boulle's workshop carried out in 1700 lists 'cinque escabelons de marqueterie avec ornements de cuivre doré. The 1715 acte de delaisement between Boulle and his sons lists six gueridons de marquetterie imparfaits (incomplete) 600 L'. The 1732 inventory compiled after Boulle's death lists 'no59 Une boeste d'anciens ornements pour des scabellons'. (J.P. Samoyault, André-Charles Boulle et sa Famille, Geneva, 1979, pp.68 and 143). The Grand Dauphin, son of Louis XIV, owned neuf autres scabellons de marqueterie aussy enrichis d'ornements de cuivre doré sur quatre pieds de haut (1.32 m). The tripod bases and vase stems mounted with têtes de belier are unique in Boulle's oeuvre but the baluster shafts mounted with fleurs-de-lys surmounted by sunflowers, suggestive of a Royal provenance, appear on a series of guéridons by Boulle which have a different base with fringed lambrequins dividing the scrolled feet. A pair of this model is in the Wallace Collection (P. Hughes, The Wallace Collection Catalogue of Furniture 1, London 1996, p. 616, No.132 (F.417 and 418) and there are two pairs (in première and contre-partie from the Grog-Carven collection in the Louvre (D.Alcouffe, A. Dion-Tenenbaum and A. Lefebure, Furniture Collections in the Louvre, Dijon, 1993, 1, no.23, p.90). Another pair belonging to Sir Francis Dashwood, Bt., West Wycombe Park was sold at Christie's London, 20 June 1985, lot 72 and again at Sotheby's New York, 21 May 1992, lot 58. A related pair of torchères, which was interestingly also in the Randon de Boisset sale (lot 796) is in the J. Paul Getty museum, Los Angeles (illustrated in C. Bremer-David, Decorative Arts, An Ilustrated Summary Catalogue of the Collections of the J. Paul Getty Museum, Malibu, 1993, pp. 72-3. cat. 106).
William Beckford owned at least one pair of this model which appear in Rutter's Delineations of Fonthill and its Abbey, 1823 (C. Wainwright, The Romantic Interior, London, 1989, figs. 107 and 120).


Clearly identified by the proud stamp placed beneath each stem, in the late 18th century these torcheres were given into the workshops of one of the leading Boulle restorers of the time, Etienne Levasseur. Having trained in the workshop of André-Charles Boulle the Younger, Etienne Levasseur was an independent workman before becoming maître-ébéniste in 1767 and is known to have restored many works by Boulle, several of which he would mark with his stamp. The precise description of the 1777 and 1787 sales and comparisson to the second pair from the Randon de Boisset sale allow a dating of Levasseurs intervention to circa 1787, the year of the sale from the collection of the comte de Vaudreuil, and 1789, the year of the outbreak of the French revolution. While the tops of the Mildmay torchères - now in a private collection - still feature the more usual ormolu border of overlapping laurel foliage, clearly described in both 18th century sale catalogues and similarly found for example on the Louvre guéridons, the moulded borders on the tops of the present torcheres differ and must have been replaced in the late 18th century under the direction of Levasseur. Whilst the distinctive projecting Indian masks do not feature in the earlier sale descriptions the do appear to be early 18th century Boulle mounts, though possibly conceived for a different use and reused under Levasseurs direction in the late 18th century. Levasseur worked almost exclusively with marchands-merciers, and it was under the direction of Claude- François Julliot (1727-1794) that he produced many of his most celebrated masterpieces using brass and tortoiseshell including the Comte de Luc’s secrétaire now at Windsor Castle, as well as a magnificent commode for the Comte d’Artois at Versailles.

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