Important pair of early Empire period candlesticks with Vestals

Pair of early French Empire period candlesticks with Vestals

An exquisite pair of early French Empire candlesticks in gilt and patinated bronze, depicting two Vestals wearing a classical robe and carrying a fire in their hands. On their heads they carry a basket with a wicker pattern full of fruit and flowers, on top of a cushion with tassels. Crowning the baskets are the bobèches for carrying the candles. This important pair of early Empire ormolu and patinated bronze candlesticks has circular bases with an annular decorative pattern.

These candlesticks have been executed in an excellent quality chiseled bronze, partly mercury gilded and partly patinated.  They are in a perfect state of conservation.

Details of this pair of French Empire candlesticks with Vestals

France, circa 1805.
Height 28 cm, diameter of the base: 11 cm.
Weight: 2.5 kg (for the pair).

History of the Vestals

One of temples on the Forum Romanum in Rome is the Temple of Vesta, the goddess of the hearth, the home and domestic life. The Vestal Virgins were the priestesses to this Roman goddess Vesta who was one of the most important gods to the Romans and she protected the city from any harm. In this temple a sacred fire was lit to honour Vesta. This fire was to be kept lit until the end of time, or else the Empire would fall.

It was the task of the Vestal Virgins to keep this fire lit forever. The college of the Vestals was regarded as fundamental to the continuance and security of Rome. The Vestals cultivated the sacred fire that was not allowed to go out. Vestals were freed of the usual social obligations to marry and bear children and took a 30-year vow of chastity in order to devote themselves to the study and correct observance of the rituals.

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