France, Louis XVI period
Chased and gilt bronze
Attributed to Jean-Charles Delafosse (1734-1789)
Each firedog is composed with a squared base adorned of rose motif on which rests a vase with a pedestal presenting a faun flanked by two double handles inspired by vases in Sèvres porcelain and gilt bronze.
The fixed cover of the vase is encircled by a laurel crown and surmounted by an acanthus leave.
Laid on the exterior handle of this vase, an important garland of oak leaves falls back asymmetrically on the base, adorned with a single oak leave making the link with the vase on pedestal forming a reverse pyramid, topped with a ball adorned of stylised flames. A frieze of oak leaves wrapped up runs along the pediment of the band.
Jean-Charles Delafosse (1734-1789)
Born in Paris in 1734 and the son of a wine dealer established in the rue du Roi de Sicile, he began his career as an apprentice with the sculptor Jean-Baptiste Poulet, a directeur-garde at the Académie de Saint-Luc, path he quickly abandoned.
The first known work of Jean-Charles Delafosse dates back to the year 1763. It is a drawing preserved today in the Bibliothèque de l’École des Beaux-Arts presenting a Projet de piédestal pour la statue de Louis XV (EBA 1944).
In 1766, he presents himself as an architect and published then a Mémoire pour une Boucherie et Tuerie générale servant à la consommation de la ville de Paris, laquelle Tuerie serait placée dans l’isle des Cygnes, which had no follow up. It is likely that he was already working for his repository entitled Nouvelle iconologie historique ou Attributs hiéroglyphiques, qui ont pour objet les quatre éléments, les quatre saisons, les quatre parties du monde et les différentes complexions de l’homme. The latter, constituted of 800 plates was engraved and assembled in 10 books by Delafosse and published in Paris in 1768. Major work, from which we can find the original drawing of a pair of wall-lights (Cahier de 6 girandoles et bras de cheminées, pl. 4). Sold 48 gold pound, the repository included at first a serie of trophies characterised by a strict neoclassical style. Delafosse from there on only completed his work by including additional booklets that permitted him to express himself in all the domains of the interior and decorative arts.
In 1767, he gave himself the title of architect and professor for the drawing, then in 1775, the one of vice professor for the geometry and perspective at the Académie de Saint-Luc. At the same time, he moved to the rue Poissonnière and conquered the rue Neuve Saint-Martin. Delafosse became member of the Académie de Bordeaux, in 1781, following remarkable sending to the Salon of this city.
He multiplied the models of furniture, chairs, luminary, vases and objects of all sorts which, if they were not directly and faithfully copied by the artists and craftsmen in the same capacity that were, for example, many furniture and objects drawned by Richard de Lalonde, inspired nevertheless considerably the productions of the latter.
Proof of his success, Delafosse wrote a new version of his first repository in 1771, with the same title, but with 18 booklets instead of 10, edited by Daumont, rue Saint-Martin and Chereau, rue des Mathurins. Between 1773 and 1785 he published, in addition to independent pieces and a repository of orders of architecture, two other main repositories. The first, titled Vingt-quatre différents cahiers de décoration, sculptures, orfèvreries et ornements divers that complement the work of Jean-Charles Delafosse and follow its Nouvelle iconologie historique […], also includes works by other ornementalists such as Puisieux fils and A. Le Canu. The second is essentially about furniture, rich of 134 plates, some of which reveal a collaboration with other artists, bringing together more than 200 models.
The biggest virtue of Delafosse was his imagination which conducted him to give names of pure fantasy to his creations, talking about “paphose en gondole”, “convalescente”, “obligeante” to designate a armchair, or even more a “veilleuse à la turque”. Delafosse was one of the principal initiators of this “Greek taste” which was a craze in Paris in 1765.
He influenced a number of Louis XVI period ornementalists such as Mathieu Liard, Boucher fils, Jean-François Forty, Richard de Lalonde, Jean-Louis Prieur or Aubert Parent. It is thus him who seems to have given them the taste for antique motifs: the bucrane, the heavy drapery, the snake, even more the congelation. It is especially characterised by the extensive use of the garland, either laurel or oak, and flowers.
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.