The stamped letters R and C separated by a crown on this pair of wall-lights are inventory marks of the Casa Reale Colorno, the summer palace of the Dukes of Parma. The marks must have been applied after the fall of the Dukes of Parma and the subsequent integration of Parma into the Kingdom of Italy in 1860, when the title of Casa Ducale was replaced by that of Casa Reale.
Madame Louise-Elisabeth (1727-1759), Madame Infante, eldest daughter of Louis XV married Infant Don Philippe of Spain in 1739 and became duchesse de Parma in 1748. As a result of the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle in 1748, she and her husband became rulers of the Duchy of Parma and they established their court there in the most fashionable taste.
Madame Infante made three visits to Paris- in 1749, from September 1752 until September 1753 and from September 1757 until her death there on 6 December 1759. Because of the extreme constraints on space, each time she went to Versailles an apartment was specially fitted out for her. For her last stay from September 1757 she lodged, as previously, on the ground floor of the main building underneath the King's apartments and the Galerie des glaces. These rooms, constantly being redecorated, were occupied by the King's daughters. The princess was allotted the appartement de jour of the comtesse de Toulouse as well as a number of rooms previously occupied by the captain of the King's guard.
The appartment de jour of the Comtesse de Toulouse gave onto the parterre d'eau underneath the galerie des glaces where now there is a low gallery reconstructed a few years ago. It consisted of an antichambre and a cabinet. For Madame Infante it was necessary to add other rooms which were in part taken from the apartment of the Captain of the Guard. Thus the princess occupied what was to become the future bedroom of Marie Antoinette's private apartments.
The delivery of the wall-lights to Madame Infante in 1759 is described in a mémoire recently published by Alvar González-Palacios in Il Patrimonio artistico del Quirinale, Gli Arredi Francesi, Milan, 1995, p. 347.
Deux paires de bras de bronze a rubans cizelées et dorés en or moulu garnis de feuillages assortis aux fleurs de Seves et modelés sur place pour Madame la Contesse de Toulouse commandés par les ordres de Madame Infante 1350.
The wall-lights were ordered by Madame Infante through her treasurer Claude Bonnet from the dealer Testard in Paris. The four wall-lights were apparently intended to decorate the former apartment of the Comtesse de Toulouse at Versailles. The high price of 675 livres per pair may be explained by the expensive combination of Sèvres porcelain flowers and the ormolu decoration. They bear witness to Madame Infante's somewhat timid introduction of a taste for early neoclassicism to the court at the same time that the marquis de Marigny was ordering neoclassical wall-lights from Caffiéri.
Alvar González-Palacios also published a second mémoire (op. cit. p. 348) from Testard concerning the sending of the two pairs of wall-lights to Parma, presumably following the death of Madame Infante:
Deux paires de bras de bronze à rubans ciselés dorés en or moulu garnis de feuillages assortis avec fleurs de Sèvre et modelés sur place 1150
The first mémoire should be seen as a record of Bonnet's order, the second as the receipt for this order paid as customary in the 18th century with a deduction of approximately 15 per cent.
One of the wall-lights is recorded at Colorno in an inventory carried out on August 1, 1811 in the cabinet à ecrire:
n.9: Deux bras à deux branches de cuivre vernissé à feuillages et fleurs de porcelaine à bouquets avec des bobeches de bronze doré avec son ruban en forme de cascadet et des huppes de bronze doré, H. 55, longeur 50, est. 80.
The other pair of wall-lights from this commission is in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, sold from the collection of Mrs. Joseph Heine, Parke-Bernet, New York, November 24-25, 1944, lot 213. They are illustrated Metropolitan Museum of Art, ed., The Jack and Belle Linsky Collection, 1984, p. 248, fig. 155. One is stamped P500 and with the letters R and C separated by a crown followed by 154.3. In 1944 they were said to have come from the Palace of Monga near Milan.
The mark A as found on these wall lights also appears on other items of furniture and objects from Parma and other Italian palaces and would appear to have been applied after the unification of Italy in 1860. It is possibly the mark of a palace in the region of Milan. It is interesting to note that when the pair of wall lights in the Metropolitan Museum was sold in 1944, the provenance was given as the Palace of Monga, near Milan.