The 'Bernini triton' candelabra are conceived in the 19th Century French 'picturesque' manner. Their tripod pedestals, encrusted with marine creatures or fruits-of-the-sea, display Neptune's conch-bearing tritons celebrating the element of Water. These chimerical mermen, the water deity's triumphal attendants perched on their rocky outcrops, derive from a celebrated fountain-model attributed to Gian Lorenzo Bernini (d. 1680). The sculptor, whose patronage by the Barbarini Pope Urban VIII transformed Rome into a 'City of Water', earned recognition as a 'fountaineer' or 'Friend of Water', Un Amico delle Acque (C. Avery, Bernini, London, 1997, p. 179.)
The Bernini model (now in the Torlonia Collection and illustrated in C. L. Visconti, I Monumenti del Museo Torlonia, Rome, 1885, no. 193) was popularised in the 18th Century, when it was in the possession of Sir William Chambers. Chambers, George III's Rome-trained 'architect' considered it a masterpiece by Michelangelo and in the 1760s lent it to Mathew Boulton, the Birmingham ormolu-manufacturer, for copying as a candlestick. Boulton had a pair made to accompany the original model, and listed in Boulton and Fothergill's sale, Messrs. Christie and Ansell, 13 April 1771, lot 28, is 'A tryton in dark bronz, holding branches for two candles in or moulu, on a bassment of the same neatly ornamentd'.
Tritons 'from Michel Angelo' were also manufactured in jasperware by Josiah Wedgwood, and featured in the 1773 catalogue, issued by Wedgwood and Bentley. In 1762, William Ince and John Mayhew's Universal System of Household Furniture, pl. LXVI, illustrated a pattern for a related triton-borne candlestick, whose mer-figure derived from Huquier's (d.1772) Fragments d'Architecture invent par G. M. Oppenord, pl. LXXXIV.
A pair of ormolu candelabra of the same model as the present lot, were sold anonymously, Christie's New York, 12 October 1991, lot 11 and a further pair were sold anonymously, Tenants, at Aske Hall, Yorkshire, 20-22 September 1994, lot 794.