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© 2001 RMN / Jean-Gilles Berizzi
This sconce, purchased by Louis XIV in 1684 from the dealer Le Brun, features a multitude of stones and cameos. The stones are set off by a metalwork mount in the style of Pierre Delabarre, a 17th-century goldsmith. This work reflects the interest of 17th-century collectors in hard stone and the richness of Louis XIV's collection of precious and semiprecious stones.
A collection of engraved stones
This sconce is presented as a collection of engraved stones (intaglios, cameos). It is studded with pieces of sard of different shapes and sizes. Some are oval or round, others square or rectangular. The sconce also features a number of egg-shaped or spherical beads of sard, perhaps from rosaries or jewelry, as holes visible on the back of the beads would seem to indicate. The beads were cut in two to be adapted to the panel. The use of multiple fragments of sard can also be seen in the mirror MR 252, also from the collection of Louis XIV. The scroll supporting the candle-ring probably came from the handle of an ancient vase; its shape is similar to the handle of the vase MR 445.
The reuse of cameos
Along with the pieces of sard, the sconce also features sixteen cameos, fifteen of which are in sardonyx and one in garnet. These cameos depict various mythological and historical figures. The head of Marie de Médicis lies next to those of Henry IV, Hercules and Omphale, and helmeted Minerva. There is a cameo on either side of the candle-ring: one depicts Silenus supported by Bacchus, the other Leda caressing a swan. The cameo placed at the lower tip of the panel represents a Gorgon's head in high relief. At the tip of the shell at the top is the profile of Emperor Claudius crowned with laurels. The central cameo is engraved with the profiles of a king and a queen of Ethiopia after a medallion (private collection). Above it is a cameo depicting Venus in a semi-reclining position giving her hand to Cupid. Two other cameos depict half-busts of two women.
A mount in the style of Delabarre
Collectors of hard stones liked to enhance them with metalwork mounts. Two styles of mount were favored in 17th-century France: the "Delabarre" style, after the goldsmith Pierre Delabarre, and a more classical style. The sconce in the Louvre is representative of the "Delabarre" style. At the time, there existed collections of model bouquets made up of small cutout leaves with trefoil, pointed, or rounded shapes, often hollowed out. Inside the bouquets were strings of seeds and pea pods, a motif in vogue in the first half of the 17th century. One of the ornamentalists who created such bouquets was Pierre Delabarre, who was appointed master goldsmith in Paris in 1625 and granted lodgings at the Louvre. The bouquets were reworked in precious metals by goldsmiths. The pieces of sard and the cameos are assembled on gilded brass plaques and joined up with small enameled gold leaves in the style of Delabarre - some of them hollowed out - in white, dark blue, green, and orange enamel. This mount is also dotted with white seeds. The decoration of the wall plaque is very similar to that of the octagonal casket from the collection of Cardinal Mazarin in the Prado in Madrid.
BibliographyUn temps d'exubérance : les arts décoratifs au temps de Louis XIII et Anne d'Autriche, Editions de la Réunion des musées nationaux, 2002, p. 281.
Alcouffe Daniel, Les Gemmes de la Couronne, Editions de la Réunion des musées nationaux, 2001, p. 388-391.
Collection of Louis XIV
Sard, fifteen sardonyx cameos, one garnet cameo, gilded brass, enameled gold
H. : 45,3 cm. ; L. : 24 cm. ; Pr. : 7,3 cm.
H. 45.3 cm; L. 24 cm; D. 7.3 cm
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