The fictionalized story behind the creation of a 19th-century chandelier currently on display in the J. Paul Getty Museum.
In the early 1800s, Louis Alexandre enjoys visiting his Uncle Henri on his expansive estate just outside of Paris. On his latest visit, he finds his artist uncle distraught, unable to conceive a new design for a chandelier, which must incorporate the four classical elements: Earth, Wind, Fire and Water. Several days of collaborative thinking, drawing, designing and building produce the unusual and intriguing light fixture, which includes a blue sphere with stars, griffins and a crystal bowl filled with swimming goldfish. The lengthy narration features the internal recounting of adventurous tales that serve as inspiration for the characters’ creativity. Intricate, darkly tinted ink-and-watercolor paintings depict the well-to-do gentleman and his nephew, both in ruffled shirts, imagining, consulting and overseeing the creation of a new masterpiece. They provide relief from the long-winded text, which, though not without humor, does readers a disservice in its baroque construction. An author’s note provides some clarification but no true investigation of the actual manufacture of the chandelier.
It's a pity that the real story behind this actual, extraordinary piece of ornate French décor is withheld, leaving readers cheated of a true exploration of art history. (Picture book. 7-9)