A magnificent early 19th Century Italian marble fireplace made for the Irish market
Italy, date circa 1810.
Height 160 cm, width 150 cm, depth 25 cm.
It is assumed that this fireplace was commissioned in Italy by the Palmer family for their Irish mansion Rush-Park, County Dublin. Rush-Park was built in aboute 1700 but was badly damaged by fire in 1827 and thus parts had to be rebuilt including the fitting of new fireplaces. The carvings on this fireplace on this fireplace are of the highest quality and are typical of Italian craftmanship at this date. Across the lintel is a Roman chariot race reief. As as customary, the drivers, known as aurigae stand on a very light two-wheel frame.
But for artistic reasons, their dress is not entirely authentic, for in addition to their short tunics they would originally have worn protective leather helmets and harnesses of leather tongs on their body and legs. A starting midway and finishing post separates each contestant. The winning driver, holding laurel wreath of victory in his hand, looks back at his pursuers. A similar depiction of a chariot race with five contestants in cameo appears on a fireplace in the Louvre, Paris. However the latter does not have the additional ornament of Muses and trophies on the two jambs. Here one can see Erato, Muse of lyric and love poetry to the left Eutrepe, Muse of music and lyric poetry to the right Both muses stand upon a balustrade formed as a lotus flower. Beneath are imaginary trophies inspired by classical Antiquity.