A rare and very fine pair of Louis XVI gilt bronze chenets, each featuring a winged putto seated upon a plinth wearing drapery around his loins and warming his hands on a flaming urn. The putti in contrapposto poses and slightly differing from one another, the one to the left with his far knee bent underneath his body and his near leg hanging down over the side of the plinth, with his right hand held out to the flaming urn and the other clutching at his drapery, the other putto with both hands held out toward the flames, his far knee bent up so that his foot rests upon the plinth while the other hangs down over the plinth itself. Each of the flaming urns with a circular gadrooned body and supported upon tripod legs terminating in goats’ feet. The plinth of rectangular form with projecting ends, with stiff leaf banding around the top above drapery swags hung from rings, each plinth upon a rectangular base with a beautiful central sunburst Apollo mask set within a roundel and surrounded by an abundant ribbon-tied floral, fruiting and flowering swag, with rosettes flanking the base at either end and supported on four tapering baluster-shaped legs
Paris, date circa 1780
Height 28.5 cm, width 27 cm.
These superb chenets appear to be very rare yet they incorporate so many decorative elements that were part of the artistic repertoire of Neo-classical design during Louis XVI’s reign. Firstly there are the winged putti that recall the work of the fondeur-ciseleur Robert Osmond (1711-89) whose firm was run in conjunction with his nephew Jean-Baptiste Osmond (1742 d. after 1790). With their thick curly hair, endearing facial features and animated poses, the putti can be compared to those appearing on several clocks made by the Osmonds. Among them are those illustrated in Hans Ottomeyer and Peter Pröschel, “Vergoldete Bronzen”, 1986, p. 177, pls. 3.6.6 and 3.6.7 and also p. 195, pl. 3.12.7 as well as Pierre Kjellberg, “Encyclopédie de la Pendule Française du Moyen Age au XXe Siècle”, 1997, p. 231. Likewise, they can be compared to a pair of facing winged putti that feature in a pen and ink clock design by Pierre-Antoine Foullet (b. circa 1732, maître 1765) in the Bibliothèque Doucet in Paris (illustrated in Ottomeyer and Pröschel, op. cit. p. 176, pl. 3.6.1).
Like the flaming urns or braziers that the putti warm their hands upon, the Apollo sunburst below also alludes to the purpose of these chenets, namely to stand either side of a fireplace. A pair of Louis XVI chenets in the Wrightsman Collection in the Metropolitan Museum of Art features a similar Apollo head on a sunburst within a circular frame in the same central position upon the base, that in turn is surmounted by a pair of putti herms seated upon an urn, (illustrated and described in F. J. B. Watson, “The Wrightsman Collection”, 1966, vol. II, no. 200, p. 380). In the same way that the Apollo sunburst mask was inspired by Antiquity, so too were the flaming urns with their tripod stands. Likewise, the rosette and abundant swags are also decorative elements that were often repeated by Neo-classical designers and bronziers. Among other Louis XVI chenets to include a flaming urn on three goats’ hoof feet is one in the Rothschild Collection at Waddesdon Manor (illustrated and described in Geoffrey de Bellaigue, “The James A. de Rothschild Collection at Waddesdon Manor”, 1974, vol. II, no. 190, pp. 739-741).