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Work Camel andirons

Department of Decorative Arts: 18th century: neoclassicism

Camel andirons

© 2007 RMN / Martine Beck-Coppola

Decorative Arts
18th century: neoclassicism

Author(s):
Barbier Muriel

These gilt-bronze andirons are composed of two camels lying on parallelepiped-shaped bases decorated with foliated scrolls on a blue ground. These highly original pieces were made for the Turkish boudoir of Marie-Antoinette at Fontainebleau and afford us a glimpse of the Turkish style popular at court at the end of Louis XVI's reign.

Marie-Antoinette's boudoir at Fontainebleau

When the court travelled to Fontainebleau in the autumn of 1776, Queen Marie-Antoinette was irked to see the private chambers still looking the way they did during the time of Marie Leczinska. Back at Versailles, she admired the new Turkish room of her brother-in-law, the count of Artois. Enchanted by the the play "Mustapha and Zeangir" relating the woes of Soliman the Magnificent's sons, she commissioned the Rousseau brothers to create a Turkish boudoir on the entresol at Fontainebleau. The bronze furnishings were made by Pierre Gouthière. Today, only the wainscoting and fireplace remain in situ, but in all likelihood the room formed a highly original whole. In addition to the andirons, the Louvre has the Savonnerie carpet, which was probably never installed. "Turkish rooms" were very popular among the king's entourage. The count of Artois had two installed at Versailles; the queen had one at Fontainebleau, and her sister, Madame Elisabeth, likewise had one at the chateau de Montreuil. All were fascinated by the sensuality of the Ottoman Empire, as portrayed in Oriental tales.

A particularly elegant piece of metalwork

The Crown commissioned various works from Pierre Gouthière, amongst which these andirons, in which the bronzesmith displays great originality and matchless skill. The animals themselves are not very life-like, but the chasing renders a camelhair effect, along with the details of their saddlery. The bases they rest on are decorated with beading that echoes that found on the friezes of the wainscoting. The fronts are made up of foliated scrolls and little bells beribboned with gilt, chased, and perforated bronze on a blue ground known as "couleur eau". These ornaments can also be found on the wainscoting of the boudoir. "Couleur eau" ("water color"), obtained on a small iron plate, was highly popular during the reign of Louis XVI on account of the interplay between materials it afforded. Each item in the room had to form part of a unified whole, and Gouthière successfully blended the andirons into the room's sumptuous decoration.

Bibliography

Baulez C., "Histoire du goût : le goût turc", in L'Objet d'art, n 2, décembre 1987.

Technical description

  • Pierre GOUTHIERE (1732-circa 1812-1814)

    Camel andirons

    1778

    Marie-Antoinette's Turkish boudoir, Fontainebleau, France

    Paris, France

  • Chased gilt bronze

    H. 34 cm; W. 25 cm

  • On loan to the Mobilier National, 1901

    OA 5260

  • Decorative Arts

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