Rare Pair of 18th Century Painted Bronze “Grotto” Candlesticks
probably conceived to light a Grotto or Cabinet of Curiosities, naturalistically cast and polychrome painted as shells including scallops, clams, whelks, winkles and sections of coral
From times of antiquity, there had always been a fascination with sea-shells, and this continued unabated throughout the 18th century and later. Margaret Cavendish-Bentinck, Duchess of Portland (1715-1785) was one of the select few 18th century conchologists. She collected fine and decorative arts and antiquities, purchasing the famous glass vessel that became known as the Portland Vase along the way, but her great love was Natural History in general, and Shells in particular. She amassed the largest shell collection of her time, which was sold after her death in a spectacular auction. Charles Grignion engraved E. F. Burney’s voluptuous image for the frontispiece to the Catalogue of the Portland Museum, as the sale was billed in 1786, and shells were shown amongst many other treasures
In 1777 Laurent Pecheux painted the Marchesa Margherita Sparapani Gentili Boccapaduli in her Cabinet with part of her famous shell collection evident on the etagere to the right of the picture.
Germany, too, had it’s fair share of shell fanatics, viz the extraordinary shell grotto here illustrated
All these Cabinets and Collections needed illumination!