The present pair of rare candelabra were conceived en suite with Barye's dramatic group of Angélique et Roger, montées sur l'hippogriffe as a garniture de cheminée for the duc de Montpensier in the 1840s. Barye had recently completed a celebrated equivalent for the duc's brother, the duc d'Orléans, and this was, no doubt, Montpensier's attempt to rival his formidable sibling. Combining elements of classical beauty, serpentine mannerism, and romantic imagination, this fine pair demonstrates the breadth of Antoine-Louis Barye's skill as well as his confident ability to work outside the animalier realm for which he is so well known.
This particular pair originates from the private collection of the former Ministre de la Marine, Georges Leygues (1857-1933). Leygues, commonly known as le père de la Marine, was active in local government from a young age, serving in numerous roles including: Président du Conseil, Ministère des Affaires étrangères and Ministère de l'Instruction publique et des Beaux-Arts.
In the latter role, Leygues became acquainted with a host of celebrated artists, including Claude Monet, Benjamin Constant, and August Rodin, who, among others, were fixtures at his family's apartment in Paris' VII arrondissement. Among his other close companions was the well-known businessman and fine art aficionado Alfred Chauchard, proprietor of Grands Magasins du Louvre, a large showroom across from the Louvre. Following Chauchard's death in 1909, Leygues was charged with the disposal of Chauchard's extensive inventory, much of which would eventually be donated to the Louvre.
Alfred Chauchard modeled his own collection on that of his acquaintance Georges Thomy-Thiéry, a sugarcane mogul with an affinity for Barbizon paintings and sculpture. Interestingly, Thomy-Thiéry's collection included a pair of candélabres à neuf lumières, décorés de six figures, mascarons et chimères, which was subsequently bequeathed to the Louvre in 1902. Chauchard's lack of discernment led him to amass a "large and expensive collection of works by Barye, Corot, Dechamps, Delacroix, Meissonier and the school of Barbizon" (T. Chang, 'The Limits of the Gift: Alfred Chauchard's Donation to the Louvre', Journal of the History of Collections, Vol. 17, pp. 213-21). It is quite possible that Chauchard's careful imitation of Thomy-Thiéry's collection resulted in the acquisition of an identical pair of candelabra by Barye, and one may speculate that the present lot was placed in Leygues's charge upon Chauchard's death.