A Fine Pair of Large Louis XVI Style Gilt and Patinated Bronze Chenets
A Fine Pair of Large Louis XVI Style Gilt and Patinated Bronze Chenets
A Fine Pair of Large Louis XVI Style Gilt and Patinated Bronze Chenets

A Fine Pair of Large Louis XVI Style Gilt and Patinated Bronze Chenets

1870 France

Offered by Adrian Alan

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A Fine Pair of Large Louis XVI Style Gilt and Patinated Bronze Chenets

Each chenet, or firedog, is formed as a cornucopia with fruiting swags and a boar’s head terminal. They are raised on shaped plinths embellished with stiff-leaf acanthus moulding and pierced scrolling foliage; each centred by a mask of Apollo and put down on toupee feet.

The design of these imposing chenets takes the form of a rhyton, an ancient classical libation or drinking vessel formed as a cornucopiae terminating in an animal head, usually that of a boar or a ram.

This model with its flowing foliate and fruiting swags is based on a pair of Sèvres porcelain vases designed by Alexandre-Théodore Brongniart (1739–1813), director of the Sèvres Manufactory. The vases were completed in 1806 as the centrepiece of the Olympic Service given by the Emperor Napoleon to Tsar Alexander I to mark the signing of the Tilsit Treaty.

Based on antique forms, Brongniart’s design was almost certainly inspired by the engravings of Giovanni Battista Piranesi (1720-1778) or those by Nicolas Xavier Willemin (1763-1833). Piranesi published two books that were particularly influential: Diverse maniere d’adornari i cammini in 1769 and in 1778, Vasi, candelabri, cippi, sarcofagi…. In the latter volume of engravings, Piranesi illustrates several Greek drinking vessels including a rhyton with a goat’s head and more specifically two engravings of the sepulchral monument to Augustus Urbanus, on the Appian Way in Rome. This ancient monument took the form of a rhyton terminating in boars head raised on a plinth. Nicolas Willemin also published engravings sometime before 1792 of ancient architectural elements and ornaments, including an Etruscan horn-shaped rhyton - “Collection de plus beaux ouverages de l’antiquité.

A further direct inspiration for the design may have been two cornucopiae from the Borghese collection which entered the Louvre in 1808.

Comparable gilt-bronze chenets, once again in the form of rhytons with boars heads, were made by the Parisian ciseleur-doreur Pierre-François Feuchère (1737-1823) in 1817, of which there are a pair in the Schösserverwaltung, Würzburg (illustrated in Hans Ottomeyer and Peter Pröschel, “Vergoldete Bronzen”, 1986, p. 341, pl. 5.4.7). Feuchère chenets are more of a direct interpretation of Piranesi’s etchings and do not include the lively floral swags introduced by Brongniart.

Of exceptional quality with very fine casting and gilding, the present chenets date to the end of the 19th century. This period enjoyed a renewed interest in the ‘antique’ and Greco-Roman design elements, along with reinterpretations of the Louis XVI style, became widely popular.
John Wilton-Ely, Giovanni Battista Piranesi, The Complete Etchings, Volume II, San Francisco, 1994, page 1074, plate 993.

Piranesi, Giovanni Battista, Vasi, Candelabri, Cippi, Sarcofagi, Tripodi, Lucerne, ed Ornamenti Antichi.- plate 98.

Nouvelles Acquisitions du département des Objets d’art 1985-1989, Paris, Éditions de la Réunion des musées nationaux, 1990, pp. 251-254.
Height 74.00 cm (29.13 inches)
Width 44.00 cm (17.32 inches)
Depth 16.00 cm (6.30 inches)
Stock Code
gilt and patinated bronze
Adrian Alan

Adrian Alan
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