A candlestick in the form of a seated griffin
A candlestick in the form of a seated griffin
A candlestick in the form of a seated griffin

After SIR WILLIAM CHAMBERS (18th Century )

A candlestick in the form of a seated griffin

c. 1775 to 1800 India

Offered by Daniel Katz Ltd

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Comparative literature:
- Masterpieces of English furniture, the Gerstenfeld collection, E. Lennox-Boyd ed., London, 1998, pp. 128-147

This precious and exotic candlestick is typical of the kind of elaborate objects brought back to England by officials of the East India Company.

Western-style furniture and objects came to be manufactured in India by native craftsmen in various centres, including Murshidabad in Bengal. That area was renowned for its textiles and its ivory work. The best-known group of objects from this school is a suite of solid ivory furniture that was commissioned by Mani Begum, the widow of the Nawab of Murshidabad, and presented to Warren Hastings, the first Governor General of India (some are in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London). Pattern books and printed designs were certainly in use for the small group of ivory objects that were fashioned in Murshidabad after European designs.

The present candelabra in the form of a griffin was based on a design by the architect Sir William Chambers (1723-1796). A further pair of ivory griffin candlesticks from Murshidabad was inspired by Chambers’ design (44 cm high, Gerstenfeld collection; see lit. , illus. 106, p. 140). Almost similar to the present candlestick, the pair features only a few differences, such as the design of the socket above the animals’ head, the medallion around their neck, and the tall bases on which the pair sits. Chambers’ design had been used in Britain as a model for works in various media in the 1770s and 1780s: an ormolu pair is at Blenheim Palace and a pair in basalt by Wedgwood is in the Victoria and Albert Museum. Yet Chambers’ design was only published in the third edition of A Treatise on the decorative part of civil architecture dating from 1791 on plate 1 of the section Various Ornamental Utensils. It would appear that it was this printed version that was used in Murshidabad.

A two-light wall bracket with a triumphant lion in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, also from Murshidabad, shows affinities with this candlestick.
Height 40.00 cm (15.75 inches)
Width 16.00 cm (6.30 inches)
Depth 9.00 cm (3.54 inches)
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