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Four candelabra: the Four Seasons

© 1988 RMN / Konstantinos Ignatiadis

Decorative Arts
18th century: neoclassicism

Author(s):
Muriel Barbier

These four candelabra belonged to the Château de Bellevue. They were made by the sculptor Jean-François Lorta and represent the Four Seasons in the form of four young girls wearing draped robes in the antique manner. These works were commissioned by Mesdames, the daughters of Louis XV, as part of the refurnishing of their Bellevue estate. They are representative of the late 18th century's interest in Greco-Roman Antiquity.

The refined interior of the Château de Bellevue

The Château de Bellevue at Meudon (near Paris) was erected on the order of Louis XV for Madame de Pompadour. Work began on the building in 1748 and the Pompadour lived there until 1757. In 1775, the estate was handed over to Madame Victoire, Madame Adélaïde and Madame Sophie, the daughters of Louis XV and the aunts of Louis XVI. Wishing to enlarge the château and transform it to reflect the latest changes in styles, they commissioned a great number of works and acquired several pieces of furniture and art. A large portion of the objects ordered by Mesdames for Bellevue are held by the Musée du Louvre, including the pair of winged lion andirons, the commodes and corner cupboards by Martin Carlin and the four candelabra by Jean-François Lorta.

How each of the four seasons is personified

Each of the four candelabra is composed of a white marble statue of a standing young woman clothed with drapery in the antique manner. The women hold a long cone whose body, decorated with stopped channel fluting, supports an incense burner and three branches of light in gilt bronze. The branches are composed of twisting acanthus foliage from which hang garlands of flowers and fruit. The feminine figures are presented on a quadrangular porphyry pedestal. Despite the similarities in composition, each young woman is different and symbolizes one season: Summer (oa5313) has ears of corn in her hair and stands with her right arm raised; Spring (oa8172), whose hair is adorned with flowers, is raising her left arm; Autumn (oa8173) has grapes in her hair and is raising her right arm. As for Winter (oa5314), she is fully clad and has her left arm raised. Another version of these candelabra survives, indicating the popularity of their design. Also signed and dated by Lorta, it is now at the California Palace of the Legion of Honor. There are also examples of this model cast in patinated bronze.

Works that demonstrate the taste for Antiquity

The theme of the Four Seasons was very popular in the 18th century, particularly for garden statuary. It provided an opportunity to create representations inspired by Greco-Roman sculpture. The choice of using white marble here is not fortuitous. This was the marble used by Greek and Roman sculptors. The fluid and almost wet looking drapery covering the figures call to mind the same references, as does the women's pose, with hips slightly swaying to one side. As for their oval face, their wavy hairstyle and the straight line of their noses, they evoke the heads of Greek statues. The composition of the gilt bronze branches is also characteristic of this antique manner, with its use of acanthus foliage and of the smoking incense burner. Mesdames closely followed the evolutions in taste and chose objects, which, like these candelabra, were marked by the fascination for Greco-Roman Antiquity that caught on in the 1760s.

Technical description

  • Jean-François LORTA (Paris, 1752 - Versailles, 1837)

    Four candelabra: the Four Seasons

    1788

  • White marble and gilded bronze

    H. 40 cm; W. 46 cm

  • Grand Salon de Mesdames, daughters of Louis XV, Château de Bellevue; Palais des Tuileries and Palais de Fontainebleau in the 19th century
    First pair: assigned from the Mobilier National, 1901 (OA 5313, OA 5314)
    Second pair: loaned by the Musée National du Château de Fontainebleau, 1930 (OA 8172, OA 8173) , 1901

    OA 5313-OA 5314

  • Decorative Arts

    Sully wing
    1st floor
    Montreuil
    Room 626

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