"Designed as three demons kneeling round a bed of flames on which another demon sits, its arms curved to support a candle and its tail looped to form the handle. The three smaller demons serve as the feet of the chamber candlestick and appear to pay homage, each in a different pose, to the seated demon in the centre. Signed and dated: Augusto Castellani, Roma 1865-1881 Artist: Augusto Castellani Conceived by: Michelangelo Caetani, Prince of Teano, Duke of Sermoneta (1804-1882). Cast by: Antonio Messina Weight: 1181 grams (38 troy ounces).
This is the only known example from a range of devil candlesticks produced by the firm Castellani to designs of their principal patron, Michelangelo Caetani, Prince of Teano, Duke of Sermoneta. Raffaele Cesare (1845-1918) described Caetani as 'an artist, with all the whims and eccentricities of the artist and the Roman prince’. As a scholar of The Divine Comedy, leading member of the Dantofili and high-profile figure in the Risorgimiento, Caetani designed a number of jewels and artworks for the Castellani in tribute to the poet Dante, weaving political comment into their creations. Augusto Castellani, Caetani’s closest collaborator at the firm, claimed that 'almost every object made [after 1848 and the revolutions in Europe, was a] symbol of patriotic thoughts and emotions.’ Silver, wooden and ivory paperknives designed by Caetani using the same demon present on the chamber candlestick, as well as similar knives shaped as angels, were popular items with visitors to the Castellani’s Roman shop. The demon figure, of beautiful human form but with bat-like wings and tail, was drawn by Caetani directly from The Divine Comedy. Cesare suggested the demon figure was based on Minos with his 'tail and wings twisted up’ who appears in the first circle of Dante’s Inferno as judge of the underworld. More likely, Caetani was inspired by the Malebolge, the eighth circle of Hell where Malacoda, or 'evil tail’, rules the Malebranche. The Malebranche are mischievous winged demons with tails and horns who torment corrupt fraudsters and politicians, forcing them into boiling tar. In the poem, Malacoda is not portrayed as an unduly malign figure for he protects the poet and his companion Virgil from harm, guiding them, under querulous escort of the Malebranche, out of the Malebolge. A metaphorical association in the use of a chamber stick is apparent, alongside barbed comment on the politicians who, in Caetani’s view, were dragging Italy to disaster. As a politician, Cesare may have been purblind to the allusion."