Attributed to Jacques Caffiéri|
Jacques Caffiéri (artist)
French, 1678 - 1755
Andiron (feu or chenet), probably 1750/1755
chased and gilded bronze and cast iron
overall: 46.4 x 44.7 x 24.8 cm (18 1/4 x 17 5/8 x 9 3/4 in.) overall (log support): 52.1 x 10.8 x 10.8 cm (20 1/2 x 4 1/4 x 4 1/4 in.)
Gift of George D. Widener and Eleanor Widener Dixon
Object 1 of 5
The subjects of these gilt-bronze andirons create visual puns on the English synonym firedogs and its French equivalent, chenets. Presumably made for a hunting lodge, these firedogs depict hounds fighting a boar and a wolf who both have already killed one dog. The lively sculpture groups appear to be the work of Jacques Caffiéri, a prominent Paris fondeur (founder) of Italian descent. The rococo stands, holding hunting horns and quivers of arrows, swirl in abstract shapes.
Fantasy marks the marble chimneypiece (cheminée), carved about 1750. Its motifs of seashells are so extravagantly scalloped that they dissolve into curves purely for the sake of curves.
The relief sculpture of the cast-iron fireback is cleverly chosen from classical mythology. In the cavern of Hades, Pluto carries his two-pronged poker for brimstone. Entertaining him, the musician Orpheus plays bagpipes in an attempt to reclaim his wife Eurydice from the realm of the dead. Behind blazing logs, this scene would take place, appropriately, in hellfire.
Atop the mantel is a charming marble statuette, The Punishment of Cupid, a highly popular design by Etienne-Maurice Falconet (1716-1791). Venus, the goddess of love, spanks her mischievous son with a bouquet of thornless roses. Chinese porcelains, imported to France, flank the statuette. Representing grotesque fish monsters, the inner pair was mounted about 1730/1755 in French gilt bronzes of cattails and seaweed, scrolling amid shells and rocks, the epitome of rococo ornament. The outer pair bears neoclassical gilt-bronze mounts made about 1780/1785. Despite their mermaid handles and masks of Bacchus, the god of wine, these vases are purely decorative and were never intended to hold water or wine.
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