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Work Eucharistic service of the Duke of Burgundy, grandson of Louis XV

Department of Decorative Arts: 18th century: rococo

Altar service of the duc de Bourgogne, grandson of Louis XV

© 1990 RMN / Daniel Arnaudet

Decorative Arts
18th century: rococo

Author(s):
SI

This eucharistic service, comprising a basin, altar-cruets, a crucifix, and a hand-bell, was used at Versailles by the Duke of Burgundy (1751–61), the eldest son of the Grand Dauphin. It is incomplete, as the stoup, the chalice, and the paten are missing. Crafted by François Thomas Germain (1726–91), goldsmith to the king, the service is a rare example of Germain's ecclesiastical work, and of the gold and silverwork made for the king, very little of which has survived.

Royal plate

It was customary among the monarchy of old for the prince, when he reached the age of seven, to pass from "the women" to "the men", receiving a guardian and tutor to oversee his education. He would also be given the eucharistic service and the plate used at table and in the bedchamber. In the event that the king died before coming of age, these services would be shared among his "attendance". The Duke of Burgundy, born in 1751, died at the age of ten, and his plate was given to his tutor, Monseigneur du Coetlosquet, who bequeathed it to his nephews. They hid it away in Luxembourg during the Revolution, after which it was handed down to the Pontbriand family. It is for this reason that the service has survived.

The eucharistic services of the Germain family

Between 1727 and 1765, ten eucharistic services were recorded at the Royal Furniture Repository, nine of which were supplied by the Germains. Thomas Germain (circa 1673–1748) delivered five eucharistic services, all very similar. François Thomas (1726–91), his son, already had the models, therefore, when he was called upon to produce the eucharistic services for the Petits-Enfants de France. He delivered four of these, including the one made for the Duke of Burgundy, now in the Louvre. According to the descriptions in the archives, the services only differ from those made for his his father in minute details of chasing.

A eucharistic service derived from earlier models

The eucharistic service of the Duke of Burgundy was registered on 18 August 1758 at the Royal Furniture Repository. Compared to the earlier services, there are only small differences in the chased detail, with the exception of the chalice (now missing) which was larger and heavier. All of the objects bear the coat of arms of Burgundy, and the basin and the hand-bell are chased with a mosaic of fleurs de lys. The altar-cruets, with  ribbed decoration and a shell-shaped cover, did not match them, a peculiarity that can be observed in all of the eucharistic services delivered by François Thomas Germain. The crucifix, standing on a base with involuted feet and decorated with shells, is topped with fleurs de lys in the round and decorated with a statue of Christ that is treated with great realism. The candlesticks have the same base and are composed of a twisted, fluted stem and a sconce decorated with boss beading. All of these shapes were slightly archaic at a time when François Thomas was already producing plate in the rocaille style. This is due to his reusing his father's models, as well as to the somewhat conservative aspect of religious furniture.

Bibliography

PERRIN, C., François-Thomas Germain, orfèvre des rois, Paris, 1994, pp. 75-76.

Technical description

  • François-Thomas GERMAIN (1726 - 1791)

    Altar service of the duc de Bourgogne, grandson of Louis XV

    1757-58

  • Gilded silver

  • Gift of the Société des Amis du Louvre, 1969

    OA 10358

  • Decorative Arts

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Additional information about the work

Hallmarks of the year 1758; master hallmark of François Thomas Germain