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Design for a silver candelabrum

  • Place of origin:


  • Date:


  • Artist/Maker:

    Flaxman, John RA, born 1755 - died 1826 (designer and maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Pencil, pen and ink and wash

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Prints & Drawings Study Room, level C, case M, shelf 40

Physical description

A drawing of the back of a silver stem, probably for a candelabrum, by John Flaxman (1755- 1826), circa 1815.
Around the stem a figure of Mercury flying down holding a baby, delivering it to a group of female figures. At the top is a basket-like form . No base is shown.
Profile, less than full size.

Place of Origin





Flaxman, John RA, born 1755 - died 1826 (designer and maker)

Materials and Techniques

Pencil, pen and ink and wash


Height: 216 mm, Width: 73 mm

Object history note

This design is for the back of a candelabrum showing Mercury presenting the infant Bacchus to the nymphs of Nysa.
The basket-like element suggests that Flaxman may have been thinking of turning it into a centrepiece.

A candelabrum of this type with lionesses support on the base was marked by Paul Storr and hallmarked 1816-17 (Christies March 31st 1976, lot 130).
The stem and figures, marked by Paul Storr and hallmarked in 1816-17, were added to a preexisting base converted from a dessert stand and hallmarked 1809-10, forming a large candelabrum in the Royal Collection (RCIN 51977). This forms a pair in the Royal Collection with a candelabrum showing The Serpent Laden being fed by the three daughters of Erebus and Night, also designed by Flaxman. For other designs for this candelabrum see E. 3038- 1927, CAI.989, 2413.
Other Flaxman designs for this candelabrum are in the Huntington Library and Museum in California (65.651), in the British Museum (1938.7.9.4) and in University College London (765).
All these drawings are sketches, except for the design in the British Museum, for the lower half of the candelabrum, which is an apparently full size design carried out in pen and wash and in detail.
Copies by Edward Hodges Baily of two of Flaxman's designs for this candelabrum are in the British Museum (1913-3-31, 295 and 296). 296 appears to be a full size copy of this drawing but with a loneness foot added by Baily

Bequeathed by J. R. Holliday, 1927.

Descriptive line

A design for a silver candelabrum, by John Flaxman (1755- 1826), circa 1815

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Victoria and Albert Museum, Department of Engraving, Illustration and Design and Department of Paintings, Accessions 1927, London: Board of Education, 1928.

D. Bindman Ed., John Flaxman, R.A., Royal Academy of Arts, 1979.
David G. Irwin, John Flaxman 1755-1826 : sculptor, illustrator, designer, London : Studio Vista, 1979.
Shirley Bury, “The lengthening shadow of Rundell's”, Connoisseur CLXI, no.648, p.79; no.649, p.152; no.650, p.218.
Robert R. Wark, Henry E., Drawings by John Flaxman in the Huntington collection, 1970.

Labels and date

John Flaxman (1755-1826)
Three sketch designs for a candelabrum showing Mercury presenting the infant Bacchus to the Nymphs of Nysa. About 1809
Pen and ink and wash

John Flaxman, England's finest neo-classical sculptor, designed extensively for the applied arts, starting with ceramics for Wedgwood in the 1770s. In 1805 he began a long connection with the Royal goldsmiths Rundell, Bridge and Rundell. He promoted the use of sculptural figures in silver, a fashion which survived into the late 19th century. In these three brilliant sketch sheets we see him gradually developing the idea of a candelabrum which was made by the Rundells in 1809. The begin with a very free composition of floating figures resembling those in his relief sculpture. The last drawing is very much more solid. When finally executed only the figures survived from Flaxman's drawings, the rest was made up by the firm's other designers and the whole probably modelled by their chief modeller, the sculptor and painter William Theed. []


Pen and wash


Wash technique

Subjects depicted



Drawings; Designs; Silver; Silver Designs; English


Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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