News item from 2013

Piranesi Candelabra

The Piranesi Candelabra Conservation Project

The TEFAF Museum Restoration Fund has awarded The Ashmolean Museum with a grant for the restoration of two candelabra, by the Italian artist Giovanni Battista Piranesi (1720-1778).

The Ashmolean is currently carrying out this conservation project, alongside specialist conservation consultants Cliveden Conservation. The intricately carved candelabra are some of the finest examples of neo-classical sculpture in the United Kingdom. They form a key element of the collections displayed in the Ashmolean’s impressive Randolph Sculpture Gallery and are of international significance.

The candelabra were purchased from Piranesi by Sir Roger Newdigate, who made two Grand Tours in 1739-40 and 1774-75.  They were shipped in component form from Italy to Oxford with instructions for their re-assembly provided by Piranesi. Given to the University of Oxford by Sir Roger Newdigate in 1775, the candelabra were originally erected in the Radcliffe Camera, a library designed by James Gibbs. From there they were moved to their present location in 1846, upon the opening of the new galleries built to exhibit the University of Oxford’s collections of Greek and Roman sculpture. They have remained important focal points ever since.

The candelabra have become structurally unsound because the plaster bonding in the joints between each vertical section has failed during the 100 years since they were last restored. Until they were re-plinthed on pallets in 1991, these vulnerable objects were traditionally moved by masons dragging them across the floor, using winches, rather than lifting them. Although they are now mounted on pallets, disguised as plinths, moving them still puts them at risk as they comprise many loose components. For that reason the Museum has developed this project to dismantle, conserve and structurally stabilize these remarkable objects.

The Randolph Sculpture Gallery, one of the Ashmolean’s most iconic galleries, is currently undergoing renovation. The candelabra are important part of the collection displayed in the gallery and will enjoy a prominent position within it. We look forward to reopening the Randolph Sculpture Gallery and exhibiting the newly conserved candelabra restored to their former glory in the spring later this year.

The Ashmolean Museum would like to thank the TEFAF Museum Restoration Fund for funding the conservation of the Piranesi candelabra, and The DCMS/Wolfson Museums and Galleries Improvement Fund and The Michael Marks Charitable Trust for supporting the refurbishment of the Randolph Sculpture Gallery.

For more information, and a conservation project video, visit: departments/conservation/projects/

TEFAF opens on 15 March until 24 March 2013.  For more information about TEFAF Maastricht, the world’s greatest art and antiques fair see the website:


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