Pair of Candlesticks

Pair of Candlesticks
After a design by Juste-Aurèle Meissonnier
French, Paris, ca. 1735
Gilt bronze
12 1/4 x 8 x 6 in. (31.1 x 20.3 x 15.2 cm)
Private collection

Location: South Hall


The dramatic asymmetry and exaggerated curvature of this pair of candlesticks typifies Rococo style. Architectural bands, ribbed petals, and rippling lines coalesce as cascading flowers and draping curves draw the eye upward from the base around the candlestick. On one side, a flower hangs over a knot; on another, a rocaille piece melds into the form, almost like melting wax. The contrast of smooth, burnished curves and chased edges diffuses light over the gilt surface.

Juste-Aurèle Meissonnier, the preeminent Rococo goldsmith, architect, and designer, was born in Italy into a family of goldsmiths. By 1715, he was living in Paris, and soon after, he was receiving commissions from some of the most important noble families. His celebrated furniture, interiors, silver, ceramics, decorative objects, and architectural designs were widely emulated; and in 1726, he was appointed dessinateur de la chambre du roi (designer to the king’s cabinet) in the court of Louis XV. With his courtly and private commissions, Meissonier transformed the weight of Baroque design into the sweeping, elegant curves and lightness of the Rococo.

Meissonnier would often provide a drawing or model to fellow silversmiths, oversee the casting and gilding, and, for special works, complete the chasing himself. His plans were also disseminated to craftsman through prints. We know that he engraved at least three views of this candlestick, rotating the view one hundred and twenty degrees each time.