Coming to Light

6th January 2020

A pair of candlesticks from a French palace, which were saved from revolutionaries in the 19th century, have turned up at auction after being considered “missing” for nearly 170 years.

The metre high ormolu and hardstone-mounted candelabra were delivered to the Palais de Tuileries in Paris in 1839 after being commissioned by Ferdinand-Philippe duc d’Orléans as part of a surtout de table for the palace’s dining room. There they remained until the 1848 revolution when a mob broke into the Palace and the candelabra (along with a good number of other valuables) were taken to the Louvre for safe keeping. There then followed a five year legal battle which ended with the Duke’s family selling their items to avoid them being handed over to the estate. The candlesticks (lot 6 in the sale of January 1853) were acquired by Sir James Watts of Abney Hall in Manchester.

That was the last time that their definite whereabouts was known as they, and much else, disappeared into private collections across Europe. From Sir James they passed to his grand-daughter, Lady Eleanor Campbell-Orde, who (prior to her marriage) had been a close friend of the author, Evelyn Waugh. They were moved to Kilmory Castle in Scotland and were consigned to auction in Salisbury by the family of the late Sir John Campbell-Orde, Eleanor’s son.

“The history of these candelabra is quite extraordinary,” said Works of Art specialist at Woolley and Wallis, Mark Yuan-Richards. “To be given the chance to market something that was made for a royal palace and had been considered lost for over a century and a half is a privilege that doesn’t come along very often. The Duc d’Orléans himself never knew the fate of his surtout de table, as he tragically died in a carriage accident just three years after they were delivered to the palace. His widow remained there until the 1848 Revolution, but France at that time was not a safe place for royalty.”

The candelabra are being sold as part of the Furniture, Works of Art and Clocks auction at Woolley and Wallis on 8th January, where they are expected to make up to £30,000. They are one of a number of lots consigned from the collection of Sir John Alexander Campbell-Orde, 6th Baronet.

“It’s very difficult to put an exact value on something this rare as you can’t really put a price on provenance,” explained Yuan-Richards. “The workmanship (by Guillaume Denière) is exquisite and they are expensive objects in their own right; but it is not often that something with royal provenance comes onto the market, and that could certainly see them exceed the top estimate of £30,000.”

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