A Magnificent Pair of George II Gilt-Wood Torchères

Height: 55”  140 cm 
Width: 23” 58.5cm at the base 
Origination: English
Circa: 1755

These magnificent tripod stands for candelabra or vases are designed in the George II French picturesque or Modern fashion popularised by Thomas Chippendale’s Gentleman and Cabinet-Maker’s Directors (1754-1762); and evolved from the Louis Quatorze patterned torchères as featured in Daniel Marot’s, Nouveaux Livre d’Orfeverie, 1703. Their vase-capped pillars and vase-capped pedestals rise from Roman tripod claws that terminate in wave-scrolled volutes, while their reed enrichments are clasped by luxuriant husk-festooned Roman acanthus. The latter can be compared with that found on bacchic altar-tripod stands executed for Harewood House, Yorkshire to one of Chippendale’s designs that has been dated to around 1760 (C. Gilbert, The Life and Work of Thomas Chippendale, 1978, figs. 376 and 377). 

The scallop-shaped tops on foliate carved supports and conforming cabriole legs carved with bell-flower stems, terminating in scroll feet. The foursided dished tops are decorated onto mahogany rather than pine which is unusual.


NB: these are a set of 4 torcheres which are available and priced as pairs.



Acquired from a dealer in London circa 1955-60.  

Sold Christies, London 14th December 2006. Price realised £192,800 

Private Collection, England. 

Scientific Analysis of Surface 

A scientific analysis, carried out by Christies in 2006, concluded that the torchères have been decorated three times. Since then, a fourth layer has been applied.

The First Decoration 

The original scheme was a white and gold one, as now, but probably without the gold “painted” scroll design on the stem and on the top. All the gilding was water gilding. The areas to be water-gilded were first coated with white chalk gesso, then gold leaf was laid over red/brown clay. No gesso was applied to the areas to be painted white, instead a white oil paint was brushed directly onto the wood. 

The Second Decoration 

The torchères were painted a solid black. No ground was applied, just a single coat of black oil paint mixed with a little iron oxide brown. The addition of the iron oxide black was probably done to speed the drying of the black paint, as carbon black pigment on its own did not dry well before the introduction of chemical dryers in the mid-19th century in date. 

The Third Decoration 

Involved white paint, water gilding and oil gilding. The black of the previous scheme was partially sanded off and a fresh coat of white chalk gesso was applied to all areas. White oil paint based on traditional lead white was applied to the white areas. Water gilding was applied over a grey clay on the larger gold mouldings, oil gilding using a yellow oil size was used for the smaller gold mouldings and for the ‘painted’ decoration. The fact that lead white was still being used, means this decoration cannot be later than the first two decades of the twentieth century. 


The Fourth Decoration 

This was carried out after their purchase from Christies and involved re-gilding the torchères to replace the white paint. 

The mahogany four sided dished tops display all four layers of decoration. It is probable, therefore, that their four-sided tops are the original tops and that the mahogany was chosen for strength.