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Work Pair of wine bottle coolers

Department of Decorative Arts: 18th century: rococo

Two "seaux à bouteille" (wine-coolers)

© 1993 RMN / Martine Beck-Coppola

Decorative Arts
18th century: rococo

Dryansky Larisa

The 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 silversmiths. Shaped like reversed bells, the coolers are the work of Edme-Pierre Balzac (b. Gien 1705–d. after 1781). They belong to a suite of four, the other two being in a private collection. They are representative of the sobering of the rocaille in the late 1750s.

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) 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 of Bourbon, Duke of Penthièvre (1725–1793) commissioned a second group of pieces for the set. This order was divided between two silversmiths, Antoine-Sébastien Durand and Edme-Pierre Balzac. The duke's daughter, Louise-Marie-Adélaïde of 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 death, the set was broken up and sold off by his descendants. The coolers by Balzac were part of the group ordered by the Duke of Penthièvre. Their liners were added by Jean-Claude Odiot during the time of Louis-Philippe.

The sobering of the rocaille style

The coolers rest on a rocaille-inspired base with a regularly cut pattern. The bodies, shaped like reversed bells, are adorned with repoussé decoration. In a poetic allusion to the object's function, the silversmith has depicted swans gliding through bulrushes. The sides are covered with crawling vines from which emerge two ribbed handles. Although the decorative vocabulary is still close in spirit to the fantasy deployed in the coolers produced by Thomas Germain (c. 1673–1748) for the same service, these objects both in their overall shape and in specific details evoke the evolution of the rocaille repertoire in the 1750s towards a more sober style. Thus the general forms remain quite regular, and the rim is chased with an ovolu motif, an ornament that was to triumph in the work of neoclassic gold- and silversmiths.


Marks: maker's mark: EPB, cinquefoil: warden's mark: crowned T (Paris 1759–60); charge: crowned A (Paris 1756–62); discharge: shell (Paris 1756–62).
On the liners: JBCO bellows  (maker Jean-Baptiste-Claude Odiot); first standard mark: Greek doctor's head (Paris 1819–33); large wares guarantee mark: Head of Ceres (Paris 1819–1833).
Arms of the Orléans family, embossed on the coolers and engraved on the liners, crown of the Princes and of the Sons of France; collar chain of the Orders of the Saint Esprit and of Saint Michel

Technical description

  • Edme-Pierre BALZAC (Gien, 1705 - after 1786)

    Two "seaux à bouteille" (wine-coolers)

    1759-66 (sheathing added by Jean-Baptiste-Claude Odiotau in the 19th century)

  • Silver

    H. 24.50 cm; W. 28 cm; Diam. 23.80 cm

  • Acquired in 1987 , 1987

    OA 11116, OA 11117

  • Decorative Arts

    Sully wing
    1st floor
    Porcelain room
    Room 605

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