April 29 Art Minute: Spiral Chandelier for Jérôme Bonaparte

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Werner & Mieth (Berlin, active 1792–1819), Spiral Chandelier for Jérôme Bonaparte. Cast, chased, and fire-gilded bronze (ormolu); cut and polished glass, 1810–1811. 68 7/8 in. (175 cm); W: 39 3/4 in. Gift of Mrs. Henry Goldman, Mr. and Mrs. Allen Owen, Florence Scott Libbey, Angelo del Nero, and Bequest of Edward E. MacCrone, by exchange, 2014.33. Gallery 31

Founded in 1792, the firm Werner & Mieth was for more than four decades the most important Berline manufacturer of hand-made luxury goods in gilded bronze. The new clients for Berlin luxury manufactories were mainly French, despite the politically difficult years of Napoleon I’s occupation of the German state of Prussia. Napoleon’s wife Josephine and other members of the Bonaparte family ordered numerous bronze and glass furnishings from Werner & Mieth.

This chandelier was purchased for the new summer palace of Jérôme Bonaparte, Napoleon’s fashionable brother and King of Westphalia from 1807 to 1813. Werner & Mieth described this chandelier as the “most beautiful crown they can offer.” The design may be attributed to the archaeologist and theoretician Hans Christian Genelli (1763–1823), particularly in relationship to a drawing in which he “dissects” the volute shape of a classical Ionic column (like the ones in TMA’s Libbey Court). The design is based on a logarithmic spiral with a downwards movement. The concept of an upside down, hanging column is a remarkable one—the curling forms of the chandelier are particularly noticeable from below.

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