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Pierre Gouthière and Marie Antoinette
Pair of Firedogs, 1777
Pierre Gouthière (1732–1813)
Gilt bronze and blued steel
Musée du Louvre, Paris; transfer from the Mobilier National, 1901
In 1777, Gouthière was asked to create several items for Marie Antoinette’s small Cabinet Turc at the Château de Fontainebleau. This prestigious commission included these firedogs, a chimneypiece, a chandelier, a pair of wall lights, and a shovel and tongs, the handles of which featured “African heads.” Only the firedogs and chimneypiece (still in situ at the Château de Fontainebleau) have survived.
Firedogs were designed and used as the decorative facade of an andiron, a metal support that holds burning wood in a fireplace. The design of these examples, in the shape of seated dromedaries, was in keeping with the oriental decorative theme of the Cabinet Turc, which was meant to transport the queen into a world of fantasy, sensuality, and refinement. The bases are decorated with an elegant arabesque frieze characteristic of the neoclassical style favored by the queen.
Pair of Ewers, ca. 1785
Gilt bronze attributed to Pierre Gouthière (1732–1813)
Chinese porcelain from the Kangxi period (1662–1722)
Hard-paste porcelain and gilt bronze
In the 1780s, Gouthière made the gilt bronzes for the chimneypiece of the Salon des Nobles in Marie Antoinette’s apartment at the Château de Versailles and for that of her foyer at the Paris Opéra. During the same years, he probably made the gilt-bronze mounts for this pair of ewers, known to have belonged to Marie Antoinette. No document has been found to confirm their attribution, but the expressiveness in the female and goat heads combined with the naturalistic finish on the various grapevines and leaves are characteristic of Gouthière’s work.
It is not known when or under what circumstances Marie Antoinette came into possession of these ewers. She displayed them at the Château de Versailles in the Cabinet de la Méridienne, a room in her private apartments where she kept her collection of rare and luxurious porcelains, hardstones, and lacquers, some mounted in gilt bronze by Gouthière.