Musée d'Orsay: Emile Vaudremer Chandelier with Boa

Emile Vaudremer
Chandelier with Boa

Chandelier with Boa
Emile Vaudremer (1829-1914), Emmanuel Fremiet (1824-1910)
Chandelier with Boa
Between 1895 and 1898
Gilded, patinated bronze
H. 105 cm
© RMN-Grand Palais (Musée d'Orsay) / Hervé Lewandowski

Chandelier with Boa (detail)
Chandelier with Boa (detail)
Chandelier with Boa
Chandelier with Boa (detail)

Lustre au boa [Chandelier with Boa]

It is rather surprising to find the names Vaudremer and Fremiet together on this stunning chandelier. The architect of the Prison de la Santé in Paris and of the Lycée Bouffon, Vaudremer was a demanding and rigorous architect. So there was no indication that he might participate in working on an object such as this, even though he was passionate about the decorative arts.
On the other hand, the virtuosity in reproducing the natural effect of the boa's skin, the circumvolutions of its flesh and the dexterity with which he incorporates the animal into the structure of the chandelier, is typical of Fremiet's work. He was known for his exceptional animal sculptures, and snakes often featured in his work.

The chandelier was made for a private townhouse belonging to the Dervillé family, a former residence of Sarah Bernhardt on the rue Fortuny in Paris. The most likely explanation is that it was first commissioned from Vaudremer, with Fremiet subsequently finishing it, giving free rein to his humour. Moreover the difference in colour and patina of the bronzes seems to confirm this hypothesis. However we still do not know how the process leading to such a striking object was organised.

The fantasy element of the chandelier echoes other works by Fremiet for the Hotel Dervillé. The titles alone of some of these highlight their originality: the Frog Pleading for Rain, Monkeys with Soap Bubbles, the The Gourmet Pelican, the Polar Bear Overcome by the Warmth of the Stove, and the two small statues Ravachol and Chauchard.
For these privately commissioned works, the sculptor gave free rein to his fantasy, a far cry from his works for official commissions.
Without doubt, the boa, the apple and the masks are linked to some sort of allusion or joke that is still not clear to us. But this chandelier demonstrates Fremiet's creative energy in the area of decoration, and his originality.

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