Spotlight on the Collection: November 2016

/ Spotlight on the Collection

1991.37_01a_p01_o3
Pair of Firedogs, About 1725, Paris, France, Gilt bronze, The Eugenia Woodward Hitt Collection, 1991.37.1-.2

What? These look like horses to me!

A firedog is a device intended to hold logs above the hearth in order to improve air circulation for better burning. It is comprised of two parts, a horizontal metal bar supported on feet and an upright decorative frieze or sculpture at the front. In French, a firedog is called a chenet. In English, we also say “andiron.” Most firedogs are simple and utilitarian, but sometimes they are very elaborately wrought in the style of the time. In 18th-century France, firedogs were often made of bronze and they were frequently made in pairs.

This pair of gilt-bronze firedogs is extremely decorative and was no doubt made for a wealthy family. They each would have been attached to a simple iron grill used to hold logs, thus providing a beautiful and bright focal point for a room.

Stylistically, this pair of firedogs reflects the transition between the heavy and massively ornate forms popular during the reign of Louis XIV and the lighter, less formal and more graceful designs found under Louis XV. Known as the Régence, this style defines the period during the early 18th century, which includes the last few years before the death of Louis XIV in 1715 and the advent of the reign of his grandson Louis XV in 1723. Here, rearing horses draped with tasseled saddles, elaborate cherub masks, and ornate shields characteristic of the Louis XIV period are mingled with the delicate curves and shell motifs of the nascent Rococo style.

It has been suggested that the horses are perhaps after a design for an equestrian monument by Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519).