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Louis XV Chimney Sconces

Artist/Maker: Unknown

Created: mid to late 18th century

Origin/Purchase: France

Materials: gilt-bronze

Dimensions: 47 × 27.9 × 27.9 (18 1/2 × 11 x 11 in.)

Location: Parlor

Provenance: Thomas Jefferson; by descent to Benjamin Franklin Randolph; by gift or bequest to Sarah Champe Carter Randolph; by gift or bequest to Robert Carter family; by descent to Mr. and Mrs. Robert Carter

Historical Notes: Jefferson purchased the gilt-bronze sconces while living in Paris, sometime between 1784 and 1789. Their naturalistic "rocaille" style dates to the earlier Louis XV period, but this form of lighting was so popular that it was produced well into the nineteenth century.1 It is difficult to determine whether the sconces that Jefferson purchased were of the Louis XV period or a contemporary imitation.

Pairs of sconces typically were placed on either side of a mirror to increase their luminescence. The account of the emballeur who packed Jefferson's Paris household recorded these sconces as "deux bras de Cheminée," identifying their placement over a fireplace.2 The sconces were also included on Petit's 1793 packing list of Jefferson's furniture shipped from Philadelphia to Monticello, where they were likely used in the Parlor.3

- Text from Stein, Worlds, 420

  • 1. "Les Appliques Louis XV," Connaissance des Arts (November 1961): 87-89.
  • 2. Grevin packing list, July 17, 1790, William Short Papers, Library of Congress. See also the editorial note following Short to Jefferson, November 7, 1790, in PTJ, 18:36n. Editorial note available at Founders Online.
  • 3. Adrien Petit's List of Packages Sent to Richmond, [ca. May 12, 1793], in PTJ, 26:19. Transcription available at Founders Online.
Filed In: 
Objects, Lighting


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