Work Pair of wine bottle coolers
Department of Decorative Arts: 18th century: rococo
Two "seaux à bouteille" (wine-coolers)
© Musée du Louvre / Objets d'Art
18th century: rococo
The two wine bottle coolers in the Louvre were part of the famous Penthièvre-Orléans service. The set, originally commissioned by Louis-Alexandre de Bourbon, Count of Toulouse (1678-1737), was augmented several times by various goldsmiths. The coolers, in the shape of grapevines, are the work of Thomas Germain and belong to the first group of objects ordered. Masterworks of rocaille, they are also one of its earliest manifestations.
What is a wine bottle cooler?
In the 'service à la française', bottles of wine and glasses were never set on the table and were always served very cold. Bottle and glass 'rafraîchissoirs' or 'coolers' were used for this purpose. The glass coolers had an oblong shape while the bottle coolers were more commonly cylindrical and high. These recipients were placed on a console on one side of the room where the table was set. When one of the guests wanted to drink, he would ask the servant standing behind his chair to wait on him. The man would serve him and then put the bottle and glass back in their place once the diner had finished drinking.
The Penthièvre-Orléans service
The oldest pieces of the service were produced by Thomas Germain (1673-1748), the author of the Louvre coolers, between 1727 and 1736. They were made for Louis-Alexandre de Bourbon, Count of Toulouse, third legitimated child of Louis XIV and Madame de Montespan, Great Admiral of France and Master of the Hunt. The son of the Count of Toulouse, Louis-Jean-Marie de Bourbon, Duke of Penthièvre (1725-1793) commissioned a second group of pieces for the set. This order was divided between two goldsmiths, Antoine-Sébastien Durand and Edme-Pierre Balzac. The Duke's daughter, Louise-Marie-Adélaïde de Bourbon inherited the service after her father died. She married Louis-Joseph-Philippe, Duke of Orléans, and the silver pieces were then passed on to the House of Orléans. After the Terror, the Duchess of Orléans managed to retrieve her possessions, and upon her death, the silver was bequeathed to her son Louis-Philippe, Duke of Orléans (1773-1850), who had the family arms engraved on the service. Following the duke's decease, the set was broken up and sold off by his descendants.
Works emblematic of the rocaille
The two coolers by Thomas Germain were among the first pieces ordered for the Orléans service. Each one rests on an octagonal base with a molding of ribboned bulrushes partially screened by fruit and foliage decoration. With their swelling belly that widens out toward the bottom and their very large rim, these pieces have the overall outline of antique vases with a deformed shape. Seen separately, the coolers appear completely asymmetrical. Placed side by side, however, they form the symmetry of twins. Filled with movement, the two pieces are covered with an exuberant decoration of vegetation. Grapevines laden with grapes and leaves climb up the sides of each vase, twisting into handles. Little snails crawl through this image of nature represented in a very realistic manner. Both wonderful products of the rocaille imagination, the two coolers must be counted among the style's most lavish accomplishments. They are also evidence of the fine craft of Thomas Germain, which enabled him to render through molding and chasing the complete life of a tiny world with great inventiveness.
BibliographyExposition Versailles et les tables royales en Europe, Versailles, 1993, pp. 275-280.
Thomas GERMAIN (1673 - 1748)
Two "seaux à bouteille" (wine-coolers)
Gift of David David-Weill, 1946 , 1946
OA 9431, OA 9432
The Louvre is open every day (except Tuesday) from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Free admission on the first Saturday of each month
from 6 p.m. to 9:45 p.m.