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Work A set of firedogs with a boar and a stag

Department of Decorative Arts: 18th century: neoclassicism

Paire de chenets au cerf et au sanglier

© 1991 RMN / Daniel Arnaudet

Decorative Arts
18th century: neoclassicism

Author(s):
Muriel Barbier

Firedogs are pairs of fireplace ornaments which sometimes have gilt-bronze elements. This set, featuring a stag and a boar on ornate bases, was in Madame du Barry's drawing room in Fontainebleau. It displays the finesse of its maker, the sculptor and gilder Quentin-Claude Pitoin, and reflects the preference for relatively subdued design of bronze furnishings at the end of the reign of Louis XV.

Madame du Barry's octagonal drawing room at Fontainebleau

In 1768 Louis XV decided to remodel his small apartment in the Château de Fontainebleau. This entailed changes to the adjoining apartment, which had belonged to Madame de Pompadour. An octagonal drawing room was made for the new favorite, Madame du Barry, in a new building overlooking the Garden of Diana. The fireplace from this drawing room, made of white marble and gilt bronze, is now in Louis XVI's library in the Château de Versailles. In fact, when Louis XV died in 1774, his mistress's drawing room was destroyed, and the furniture was scattered. The fireplace was dismantled and moved to Versailles; its mantelpiece, decorated with draped children, had been executed by the sculptor Louis Simon Boizot and the bronzesmith Pierre Gouthière. The Louvre firedogs were used in this fireplace.

A hunting vocabulary

Each firedog is composed of a sturdy base whose corners are decorated with hanging dog skins. On the sides facing outward are low reliefs with still lifes of game in a landscape. The base extends into the fireplace with a curved entablature attached to a short fluted column. The whole firedog is decorated with oak leaves and interlaced ivy. An animal crowns each base: a boar on the left and a stag at bay on the right. The hunting theme was frequently employed in the decorative arts of the eighteenth century, both for ornamental bronzes and for tapestry and goldwork. It is particularly appropriate at Fontainebleau, which was the French royal hunting lodge.

The sculptor's work

This set of firedogs was made by the sculptor and royal gilder Quentin-Claude Pitoin, who died in 1777. The stag and boar are remarkably modeled and finely chased. This finesse and the overall movement of the work recall brilliant pieces of Rococo carving. However, the rectilinear bases on which the two animals are placed and the fluted columns that terminate each firedog recall Greco-Roman antiquity. The development towards a less sinuous, more linear style is characteristic of the 1760s and 1770s. Moreover, Pitoin skilfully employed the play of light and relief and used gilding in two different colors, yellow and pink; variations in tonality still can be seen on the firedogs today.

Technical description

  • Quentin-Claude PITOIN (sculpteur, fondeur et doreur)

    Paire de chenets au cerf et au sanglier

    1772

    Paris

  • Bronze doré

  • Provenance : livré par Pitoin en 1772 pour le salon de Madame du Barry à Fontainebleau ; en 1775, au pavillon de Louveciennes ; palais des Tuileries au XIXe siècle. Versement du Mobilier national, 1901 , 1901

    OA 5175

  • Decorative Arts

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