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Work Fire Screen

Department of Decorative Arts: 18th century: neoclassicism

Ecran à châssis toute face

© 1991 RMN / Daniel Arnaudet

Decorative Arts
18th century: neoclassicism

Author(s):
Barbier Muriel

This escutcheon-shaped fire screen comes from the pavilion built by Claude-Nicolas Ledoux (1736-1806) for the comtesse du Barry, Louis XV's official mistress after 1768. It was part of the furnishings designed by Louis Delanois (1731-92) for her residence there. The screen foreshadows Louis XVI woodwork and is an example of transition-style furniture.

The pavilion of Louveciennes

In 1769, after the Duke of Penthièvre (1725-93) had waived his tenancy rights, the king made over the crown property of Louveciennes to Madame du Barry, who remained there until her execution in 1793. The estate only comprised an old pavilion, originally used to supervise the waterworks at Marty. Contracted to Ange-Jacques Gabriel (1698-1782), renovation began in 1769 and lasted two years. Madame du Barry, however, wished to have a "Temple of Love" to celebrate her relationship with the king, and construction of a new pavilion was undertaken by Claude-Nicolas Ledoux in 1770. Work was completed in September 1771, in time for the inaugural supper planned by the king. The chairs were for the most part made by Louis Delanois, carved by Joseph-Nicolas Guichard, gilded by Jean-Baptiste Cagny, and upholstered by François Labitte.

The transition style and the vocabulary of love

The Louvre's fire screen is in the shape of an escutcheon and stands on two sculptural legs that end in volutes. The proportions and curved profile of the legs still recall the Louis XV style. The perfectly integrated sculpture and its refined execution, on the other hand, foreshadow Louis XVI furniture. The carved flowers are homages to love: florets, branches of myrtle, olives, gillyflowers, and bouquets of roses, all of which are associated with the goddess Venus.

Who were the Authors of this Screen?

The screen presented here was part of a set of twenty-one chairs and two screens for the Salon Carré of the pavilion, originally painted white and upholstered with blue-ground "Gros de Tours". Ledoux supplied designs to all the craftsmen, with the exception of Delanois. Who, then, invented the model? It might have been Delanois himself, with help from the sculptor Guichard. He had just completed a set of chairs for the royal palace in Warsaw, under the direction of the architect Victor Louis (1731-1800), an undertaking that put him in touch with neoclassical innovations. It is thus plausible that he applied these novelties at Louveciennes. The involvement of a third party is, however, possible, notably the architect Charles de Wailly (1729-98) or the ornamentalist Jean-Charles Delafosse (1734-89), both of whom designed forms and ornaments similar to those of the screen in the Louvre.

Bibliography

Pallot Bill G. B., Le Mobilier du musée du Louvre, t. 2, Dijon, Éditions Faton, 1993, pp. 114-115.

Technical description

  • Louis DELANOIS

    Ecran à châssis toute face

    Vers 1770 - 1771

    Paris

  • Hêtre doré

    H. : 1,10 m. ; L. : 0,73 m. ; Pr. : 0,45 m.

  • Provenance : Salon carré du pavillon de la comtesse du Barry à Louveciennes ; collection Georges Hoentschel ; sa vente à Paris, 1919 ; collection Mme Jacques Balsan, collection French à New-YorkAcquis en 1963 , 1963

    OA 10219

  • Decorative Arts

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