The bronze figurative garniture, presenting Apollo and Diana as light-bearing Sun and Moon deities, were made at Matthew Boulton's Birmingham manufactory, circa 1778. Their design reflects the influence of the Rome-trained court architect Sir William Chambers (d. 1796) who introduced the George III 'Roman' fashion and also the French antique fashion promoted by Matthew Boulton (d. 1809) following the 1760s establishment of his Birmingham ormolu manufactory.
APOLLO & DIANA
The hunter-god Apollo's Mount Parnassus role as leader of the 'Muses of Artistic Inspiration', together with his sister's role as 'chaste' goddess of marriage vows, made them appropriate accompaniment for Boulton's 'sacred urn' or vase mantelpiece garnitures, intended to evoke the 'columbarium' vase-chambers and the lyric poets' accounts of sacrifices at love's altar in antiquity. The Apollo, with additions of chlamys-drapery, derives from a Pompeian bronze figure illustrated in Boulton's copy of Le Antichita di Ercolano, Vol. I/2, Naples, 1771. While his laurel-wreathed marble 'altar' pedestal perhaps derives from that supporting a female bronze figure (N. Goodison, Ormolu: The Work of Matthew Boulton, London, 1974, fig. 11). In place of the figure's spear he is represented holding a palm-branch, corresponding to that of the huntress Diana, who appears in the guise of a triumphal palm-bearing 'nike' victory figure. Such palms recall the choragic prizes that served 'to bind the Victor's brow' as recounted in Virgil's Trojan history, The Aeneid Virgil's lines were quoted in The Antiquities of Athens, 1762 issued by the artist architect James Stuart during the period that he was introducing festive 'nike' figures in his celebrated painted apartment as Spencer House, St. James's. Around this time Boulton was in consultation with the sculptor John Bacon, R.A. (1740-1799) and John Flaxman senior (1726-1795): the latter provided Boulton with models and it is possible that the former may have contributed as well (for Bacon and Flaxman's model-making role see T. Clifford, 'The Plaster shops of the Rococo and Neo-Classical Era in Britain', Journal of the History of Collections, 1992, p. 42).
THE CHRISTIE'S SALES
The patterns for this pair of candelabra, with 'three lights each' feature in Messrs Boulton and Fothergill's, Pattern Book I, p. 19 (see: N. Goodison, Matthew Boulton: Ormolu, London, 2002, pl.124). They were not included in his sales at the St. James's Rooms of Messrs Christie & Ansell in 1771-2, and two pairs with three branches each first appeared in that held by Christie and Ansell on 18 May 1778 (Lots 79 and 124) (Goodison, 2002, pp. 468, 470). Following John Fothergill's death an inventory of the stock at the Soho manufactory (Richard Bentley's shop) included '1 Diana and Apollo with branches, gilt ... £19.8.0.', and in one of the warehouses there was an entry 'Pattern shop, Apollo and Diana figures included ...£35.0.0.' (Goodison, 2002, p. 472).
A pair of this exact model but with three branches, likely to have been included in Christie and Ansell's 1778 sale as either lot 79 or 124, was sold anonymously, Christie's, London, 3 July 1997, lot 10 (£89,500). The latter pair have now returned to Soho House, Boulton's home and manufactory, part of Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery. As the present figures bear enlarged branches for five lights, it seems more likely that they were not intended for a mantelpiece, but served instead as a garniture for pier-tables or commodes and their accompanying glasses. Their recent location in mainland Europe also raises the possibility that they were amongst the wares retailed by Boulton through the fashionable Parisian dealer (marchand mercier) Charles-Raymond Granchez at Le Petit Dunkerque.