Pair of Firedogs, 1771
Pierre Gouthière (1732–1813)
For the Grand Salon Carré in Mme Du Barry’s new pavilion at Louveciennes, Gouthière supplied two pairs of firedogs to complement the two chimneypieces of white marble and gilt bronze. According to Gouthière’s invoice, he presented several drawings and models of firedogs to Du Barry, one of which was found to be “to Madame’s taste” and was used to make the sets of firedogs. The other pair is at the Detroit Institute of Art.
The low-relief featuring a child leading a goat to sacrifice — directly inspired by the Bacchanal of Children with a Goat sculpted in Rome in 1626 by François Duquesnoy — evokes a ritual purification, which, together with smoldering vases and tripods, and Jupiter thunderbolts, was the favored motif for firedogs in the second half of the eighteenth century. It refers to the first element, fire, and is well suited to the purpose of these gilt-bronze objects and their position next to the flames.
The theme is completed by a branch of myrtle at the circular bases of the tripods. This motif is associated with the goddess Venus, love, and eternal youth, appropriate for the house of the king’s mistress. It can also be found on the surviving knob (also in this exhibition) and originally on several other decorative elements at Louveciennes.