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Gérard-Jean Galle - chandelier with zodiac signs

Gérard-Jean Galle – French, Paris, about 1818 – 1819 – Gilt bronze, enameled metal, glass

A hot air balloon inspired the design of this fanciful chandelier with a blue lacquered globe strewn with gold stars above a glass bowl. The twelve signs of the zodiac wrap around the globe on a gilt bronze band. The maker, Gérard-Jean Galle, fitted the bowl with a plug and explained that it could hold water and small goldfish, “whose continuous movement amuses the eye most agreeably.” When he exhibited the chandelier in 1819, he described it as a lustre à poisson (fish chandelier).

Galle tried to sell this chandelier along with other merchandise to the French King Louis XVIII in 1820. He desperately pleaded that these goods caused “the ruin of my factory and family” and promised that his stock was modestly priced, but the government rejected his offer. Conscious of popular criticism of governmental luxury, the bureaucrats argued that they could not purchase objects that were neither “advantageous nor useful.”