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Work Coffee grinder

Department of Decorative Arts: 18th century: rococo

Moulin à café

© 2001 Musée du Louvre / Martine Beck-Coppola

Decorative Arts
18th century: rococo

Author(s):
Barbier Muriel

This coffee grinder has an illustrious history: it once belonged to Madame de Pompadour (1721-1764). It is a superb luxury item, made of three colors of gold. It was made by the jeweller and goldsmith Jean Ducrollay, who worked in Paris. The grinder is a fabulous reminder of the vogue for coffee-drinking in the 18th century and is a fine example of the outstanding objets d'art that Madame de Pompadour commissioned.

A decorative yet functional item

The coffee grinder is cylindrical in form, narrowing slightly in the middle, and it consists of three parts. The lower part can be unscrewed to remove the ground coffee. The low relief decoration depicts branches of coffee bushes. The leaves are in green gold and the berries are in rose gold, against a background of yellow gold. The decoration elegantly recalls the grinder's function.

Madame de Pompadour and the goldsmith's art

Madame de Pompadour collected objets d'art of gold. In her Paris home, the Hôtel d'Evreux - now the Palais de l'Elysée - she put together an exceptional collection of gold tableware from 1755 to 1757, including this coffee grinder, an eggcup, spoons, a coffee pot, and a spirit-of-wine dish warmer. All of these objects were stored in a wooden box, along with a salt and pepper set with accessories. Of all these pieces of gold tableware, only the coffee grinder has survived. The other pieces are known only from the inventory of Madame de Pompadour's possessions after her death in 1764. She obviously loved gold and silverware, and commissioned pieces from a number of suppliers, including Auguste, Durand, and Jean Ducrollay. The latter was one of the most respected jewelers and goldsmiths in Paris in the 18th century. He specialized in small objects such as snuffboxes and other small decorative boxes.

The fashion for coffee

Coffee, which originated in the East, was introduced to Paris in 1670, and it became highly fashionable, both at court and in high society in general. By the 18th century, its consumption had become so widespread that Diderot and D'Alembert included a whole article on it in their great Encyclopedia, giving instructions on how to prepare coffee and describing a type of small portable grinder. Madame de Pompadour's coffee grinder, although obviously made of much more precious materials, fits the description exactly, even down to the details of the grinding mechanism, which is still in place.

Bibliography

- Nouvelles Acquisitions du Département des Objets d’art 1995-2002, Paris, RMN, 2003, p.106-109.

- Madame de Pompadour et les Arts, Catalogue d'exposition, Versailles, RMN, 2002, p.362-363.

- MABILLE, G., Le Moulin à café de Jean Ducrollay pour Madame de Pompadour, L’Objet d’art de la saison, n°18

Poinçons :
maître (JD un cœur) ; maison commune, Paris, 1756-1757 (Q couronné) ; charge, Paris, 1756-1762 (une herse) ; décharge, Paris, 1756-1762 (une coquille) ; contremarque, Paris, 1762-1768 (une main droite ouverte).

Technical description

  • Jean DUCROLLAY

    Moulin à café

    1756 - 1757

    Paris

  • Or jaune, vert et rose, acier et ivoire

    H. : 9,50 cm. ; D. : 5,20 cm.

  • Dation en paiement de droits de mutation, 2000 , 2000

    OA 11950

  • Decorative Arts

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Additional information about the work

Master hallmark (JD, heart); town mark, Paris, 1756-57 (Q crowned); charge (tax to pay), Paris, 1756-62 (portcullis); décharge (tax paid), Paris, 1756-62 (shell); countermark, Paris, 1762-68