Pair of three-light sconces (bras de lumière)

ca. 1775
French, Paris
Gilt bronze
H. 11 1/2 x W. 19 1/2 x D. 12 1/2 in. (29.2 x 49.5 x 31.8 cm)
Metalwork-Gilt Bronze
Credit Line:
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Charles Wrightsman, 1973
Accession Number:
1973.315.10, .11
  • Description

    These wall lights are shaped with great naturalism to resemble lily stalks tied together with a large bow. They are not a proper pair, as their ribbons do not complement each other but flow in the same direction; therefore, they were most likely part of a larger set. The unknown chaser and gilder made clear contrasts between such highly burnished areas as the opened blooms and those given a matte finish, such as the buds. Lilies are strongly scented flowers that were very popular during the Neoclassical period, and a number of contemporary references to sconces in the shape of sprays of lilies are known. The successful bronze worker Pierre Gouthière, for instance, made a pair composed of three lily branches for Madame du Barry, mistress of Louis XV, for which he charged 2,500 livres. Horace Walpole reported in a letter of September 9, 1775, to Anne Liddell, that the Grand Cabinet of Madame de Mirepoix’s Parisian hôtel was “illuminated by four branches of lilies of ormolu, each as loose and graceful as that which Guido [ Reni]’s angel holds in the ‘Salutation’ [Annunciation] at [ the church of ] the Carmelites.”

  • Provenance

    Baroness Alphonse de Rothschild ; Baron Nathaniel de Rothschild ; Mr. and Mrs. Charles Wrightsman (until 1973; to MMA)

  • See also
    In the Museum
    Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History