The 'C' couronné poinçon was a tax mark employed on any alloy containing copper between March 1745 and February 1749.
These superb and monumental Louis XV candelabra, incorporating Meissen models of jays perched on tree trunks, represent a ‘tour de force’ in the oeuvre of the sculpteur, fondeur et ciseleur du Roi Jacques Caffiéri (1678-1755), possibly conceived with the assistance of his son, Philippe (1714-1774). Together with another pair, they were acquired privately by Baron Gustave de Rothschild directly from the Borghese collection, and were in turn, according to family tradition, received as a gift from King Louis XV.
The boldly scrolling and finely chased ormolu mounts are closely related to the extraordinarily extensive and precious group of bronzes d’ameublement, supplied to Madame Infante, Louise-Elizabeth of France, duchesse de Parma for the Palazzo di Colorno following on from her second trip to Paris between September 1752 and September 1753. The present pair is indeed closely related to three pairs of Louis XV ormolu and Meissen porcelain candelabra supplied to Madame Infante for Colorno, one pair with three branches and two pairs with five branches, all of similar splendour and monumental scale as the Rothschild pair (A. Gonzales-Palacios, Gli Arredi Francesi, Rome, 1995, no. 76, pp. 285-290). This group also included a pair of chenets listed in Caffieri’s inventory of 1755, sold by King Umberto of Italy, Christie’s London, 4 December 1969, lot 37 and a set of four wall-lights, again by Caffieri, now in the J. Paul Getty Museum (C. Bremer-David, Decorative Arts, An Illustrated Summary Catalogue of the Collections of the J. Paul Getty Museum, Malibu, 1993, no.168, p,103).
Whilst Madame Infante is known to have purchased much directly from the marchand-mercier Lazare Duvaux, as well as from the ciseleur, doreur sur métaux du Roy Antoine Lelièvre, it was Caffiéri who was most extensively patronised on this commission. Both the aforementioned chenets and wall-lights are decorated with a pierced guilloche motif which was apparently an important and integral part of Caffieri’s signature style. This motif appears similarly on the present candelabra and those from Colorno, each time in a different form and demonstrating Caffieri’s original and genius talent. As Peter Hughes has argued in The Wallace Collection Catalogue of Furniture III, London, 1996, no.266, pp.1310-1315, some of the gilt-bronze items in the ‘Colorno group’ may actually originally have been commissioned by Louis XV for his own use a few years before and given by him to his eldest daughter; this hypothesis is based particularly upon the ormolu chandelier, also from Colorno and decorated with large pierced guilloche motifs throughout, now in the Wallace, which is signed and dated CAFFIERI A PARIS 1751 and was, therefore, commissioned before their arrival in Paris. Alternatively, these chandeliers may have already been in preparation prior to the duchesse’s visit due to the complexity of their manufacture, enormity of commission and the imminence of the shipment.
Johann Joachim Kändler first modelled a pair of jays for Augustus the Strong's Japanese Palace in Dresden in 1735. A model with a squirrel to one side is recorded in Kändler's Taxa for 1 October 1739 to 31 January 1740, and subsequent entries referring to jays occur in his work records in May 1740 and September 1741. Entries for J.G. Ehder in 1743 and 1744 suggest that he may also have assisted Kändler working on elements of the models. Rainer Rückert, Meissener Porzellan, Munich, 1966, pl. 272, no. 1108 discusses the jay perched on a tree-stump in the Bayerisches Nationalmuseum, Munich, corresponding to one example of the present pair, and no. 1109, for its companion model with a squirrel to one side. An ormolu-mounted example similar to the present lot is in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (no.1974.356.345) and similar examples are on view in the Dresden Porcelain Collection in the Zwinger Palace. A pair of jays from the collection of Sir Gawaine and Lady Baillie were sold at Sotheby's, London, 1 May 2013, lot 21.