France, Louis XVI period
Chased and gilt bronze
Each firedog is composed of a covered vase topped with a grenade and a interlacing frieze. It pursues with a tripod base formed by ram clogs surmounted by rams’ heads over volute motifs embellished with piaster friezes.
Each vase rests on a base adorned with a faun mask on his face, volutes on the side and water leaves on the base. The firedogs are of a curved shape with pierced interlacing frieze motif to a second base narrower with roughened flutes and topped with grenades.
The neoclassical taste and the Greek influence
This pair of firedogs insert well in the neoclassical period of the 1770s.
Since the 1750s, responding to claims of a small group of critics which where denouncing the extravagance of the rocailleand aspired to recover the “noble simplicity” of the Antiquity masters, started to appear a taste more and more distinct for the neoclassical vocabulary. The travel to Italy organised by the marquise de Pompadour to educate the taste of her brother, Abel Poisson, marquis de Vandières, future directeur-général des bâtiments du Roi, accompanied by the engraver Charles-Nicolas Cochin, the architect Jacques-Germain Soufflot and the abbot Leblanc between November 1749 and March 1751 is considered since the period as the starting point of the “Greek taste”. It was followed in December 1754 by the publication in the Mercure de France of a “supplication aux Orfèvres, Ciseleurs, Sculpteurs en bois pour les appartements et autres” written by Louis-Sébastien Mercier, truthful advocacy in favour of the straight line, the respect of the proportions and balance, and an urgent reminder to the nobility of the antique ornamental repertory. In the 1760s, it is thus how this new taste took over the capital city like a real craziness. Painters, cabinetmakers and bronzers knew how to respond to it preluding then the vocabulary developed at the Louis XVI period.
Characteristic of the strong treatment of the bronzes of this stylistic period, this pair of firedogs, with its tripod vase, rams’ heads and clogs, its piaster and interlacing friezes or its roughened flutes also figure all this vocabulary.
Hans Ottomeyer, Peter Pröschel, Vergoldete Bronzen: die Bronzenarbeiten des Spätbarock und Klassizismus, München, Klinkhardt & Biermann 1986, p. 200.
Marie-Laure de Rochebrune (dir.), El gusto “a la griega”. Nacimiento del neoclasicismo francés, Madrid, Palacio Real, Lisboa, Museo Calouste Gulbenkian, fundaçao Calouste Gulbenkian, 2007.
Pierre Verlet, Les bronzes dorés français du XVIIIe siècle, Paris, Picard, 1987.
 The administration of the King’s building depends on the department of the House of the King. In 1726, the function is called Direction Générale. The Directeur Générale is assisted by the Great architect of the King and the Great painter of the king