French Fashion - A Moment in Ostentation

As much as I believe the French were criticized for the level of ostentation that was exhibited in their interiors throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, I am never without amazement when peering on the the objet of a precariously formal time. 

Amidst all of the gilt and crystal and ormolu and pretension there can be found moments of whimsy.  Add-ons that exist not just to fuel the fancies of the object owner but that also exemplify the inner workings of these crafts people.   

Were they smart in coming up with these final touches that exist to amuse me? Or were they simply crazy? Or worse so... were these whimsical additions simply meant to add on a few francs of profit?

Getty-51.jpg

Take the hot-air balloon inspired chandelier by the French artist Gérard-Jean Galle.  Designed and constructed for King Louis XVIII at somepoint between 1818 and 1819, the gild bronze, enameled metal and glass light fixture served not only to inefficiently light the space for which it was created but to also, in the words of Galle, "amuser l'oeil le plus agréablement" (amuse the eye most agreeably) with the addition of a glass bowl with the sole purpose of holding water and small goldfish. 

Personally, I believe that it held a second purpose, to distract the viewer from bad conversation or an even worse companion (Regardez!  Un poisson rouge!).  Either way, the 4 foot tall fixture must have been a spectacle in its original location.  

I've tried hanging a goldfish bowl from the Ikea pendant in my dining room but it doesn't seem to have the same effect.  

Sigh.  

The J. Paul Getty Museum | www.getty.edu

Image copyright DCoopMedia and may not be used without prior permission.