A paragon of Regency splendor, the crafting of this rare and incredible candelabrum centerpiece and plateau are attributed to London silversmith and sculptor Philip Cornman for Rundell, Bridge & Rundell after a design by architect Charles Heathcote Tatham. A motif originally created in 1801 for Tatham’s major patron, the 5th Earl of Carlisle, these resplendent bronze and brass ormolu creations illustrate both artisan’s propensity toward grand sculptural masterworks inspired by antiquity.
Intricately cast, chased and engraved with clear Egyptian influences, the centerpiece bears the hallmarks of masterful workmanship throughout. Cornman was a virtuoso of many mediums, but it was his skills as a silver and goldsmith that captured the attentions of Rundell, Bridge & Rundell sometime at the end of the 18th century, and the firm often utilized his gifts to create extensive pieces for Barons, Earls, and military heroes. The silversmith was obviously well versed in Tatham’s published designs as illustrated in the architect’s tome Design for Ornamental Plate. In fact, the design of this very centerpiece is illustrated within the pages and captioned “A Piece of Plate designed and executed in Silver for the Earl of Carlisle in the year 1801.”
These majestic pieces illustrate the far-reaching design influences of Napoléon’s Egyptian campaign, which not only had a strategic military objective, but it also marked the unprecedented beginning of the first expedition and extensive study into the history of Egypt. Tatham, in particular, was fascinated by the findings of these expeditions, and took advantage of the new-found popularity in Egyptian motifs and melded them into designs he had studied personally in Rome to create a unique oeuvre that emphasized the beauty of antiquity. From the winged sphinxes and bacchanal masks on the centerpiece to the hoof feet and Greek Key border along the plateau, the influence of the great ancient civilizations prevails.
This centerpiece and plateau was part of the Christie’s auction of rare and important objects from the famed Parisian antique gallery Steinitz in 2007, and sold for $85,000. Similar Cornman/Tatham centerpieces have been found executed in silver, however, very few were ever made due to the extreme expense of executing Tatham’s robust designs. One such centerpiece nearly identical to the present example is housed in the collection of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, number 2007.349.
Centerpiece: 25" wide x 16 3/4" high
Plateau: 22 1/2" diameter x 4" high