A pair of gilt and patinated bronze four-light figural candelabra. Each is modelled with a standing Vestal Virgin holding aloft an ormolu, three-armed candelabrum resting on her head. The three arms sprout from a fluted vase and surround the stem of the central candle nozzle shaped as a burning flame. The figures of the Vestal Virgins balance atop a ball on a tapering plinth fronted by ormolu appliques of a priestess, on stepped square base.
The Roman college of Vestal Virgins was formed by priestesses who dedicated their lives to Vesta, the goddess of the hearth. Their main task was to keep the fire in the temple of Vesta burning eternally. They also performed many rituals related to the worship of Vesta and the maintenance of the temple. For example, they collected holy water from the nymph Egeria’s well to keep the temple clean and offered small sacrifices to the sacred fire in the temple. The Vestal Virgins were selected at a very young age and appointed for a period of at least thirty years. They were given a prominent social status but were forced to abide to strict rules regarding their chastity especially. If a Vestal Virgin violated this oath of celibacy, she risked being buried alive.
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