New home for ‘missing’ candelabra

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A pair of candlesticks from a French palace, that once lit Kilmory Castle in Argyll and which were saved from revolutionaries in the 19th century, have sold at auction for £124,000 after being considered ‘missing’ for nearly 170 years.

The metre-high ormolu and hardstone-mounted candelabra sold on the telephone at prestigious saleroom, Woolley and Wallis, creeping their way up from a starting price of £20,000.

‘There were a group of these candelabra that were made for the Palais de Tuileries in Paris in 1839, from a commission by Ferdinand-Philippe, duc d’Orléans,’ explained works of art specialist, Mark Yuan-Richards.

‘A pair were sold in Christie’s, New York, in 2017 for £75,000, but the whereabouts of the others was at that time unknown. Somewhere there may still be another 10 similar candelabra in private collections around the world.’

The candelabra came under threat during the 1848 revolution when a mob broke into the palace.

Luckily, no lasting damage was done and the candelabra (along with a good number of other valuables) were taken to the Louvre for safe keeping. There then followed a five-year legal battle which ended with the Duke’s family selling their items to avoid them being handed over to the estate.

The candlesticks (lot six in the sale of January 1853) were acquired by Sir James Watts of Abney Hall in Manchester then passed down the family line to his great-grandson, Sir John Campbell-Orde of Kilmory Castle in Scotland.

Prior to the auction, there were hopes that the candelabra could get close to the price achieved in New York three years ago for the similar pair.

‘It is very difficult to put a price on provenance,’ said Yuan-Richards, ‘and although we hoped that the candelabra would achieve well over their estimate there are no guarantees at auction. Fortunately, we had a lot of interest from bidders within the UK, continental Europe and the USA, and they eventually sold to a telephone bidder in New York.’