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An important Louis XVI ormolu-mounted white marble chimneypiece, designed by Claude Nicolas Ledoux, the mounts supplied by Pierre Gouthière

circa 1771

Estimate
100,000200,000
LOT SOLD. 374,500 USD
JUMP TO LOT
6
An important Louis XVI ormolu-mounted white marble chimneypiece, designed by Claude Nicolas Ledoux, the mounts supplied by Pierre Gouthière

circa 1771

Estimate
100,000200,000
LOT SOLD. 374,500 USD
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

Masterworks

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An important Louis XVI ormolu-mounted white marble chimneypiece, designed by Claude Nicolas Ledoux, the mounts supplied by Pierre Gouthière

circa 1771

Provenance

Comtesse du Barry (1743-1795), Salon à Cul-au-Four, Pavillion de Louveciennes, until 1793 when confiscated by the Revolutionary Government

Sotheby's London, June 14, 1997, lot 56

Literature

Christian Baulez, Pierre Gouthière (1732-1813), in Hans Ottomeyer and Peter Pröschel, Vergoldete Bronzen, Vol. II, Munich, 1986, pp. 626-627.

Jacques Robiquet, Gouthière, Sa vie, Son oeuvre, Paris, 1912, pp. 41 and 108.

Mario Tavella, "Un camino di Gouthière per il Salon à Cul-au-Four a Louveciennes," Antologia di Belle Arti, Studi sul Settecento, nn. 55-58, 1998, pp. 108-113

Catalogue Note

The detailed bill from Gouthière for the delivery of the present fireplace surround is recorded and has been published in Christian Baulez, Pierre Gouthière (1732-1813), in Hans Ottomeyer and Peter Pröschel, Vergoldete Bonzen, Vol. II, Munich, 1986, pp. 626-627. It includes ten entries for the execution of the chimneypiece and nineteen for the execution of the bronzes. Gouthière's prices for the mounts of the fireplace are as follows (the lioness masks are later replacements and do not appear in the original bill):

The moulded mount below the top, made out of nine sections of different sizes:

"Pour le dessus de la tablette avoir fait un moulure en doucine, taillée en trèfles, feuilles d'ornements et feuilles d'eau. Cette moulure porte 9 lignes de développement sur 6 pieds 6 lignes de longueur et fait avant-corps er arrière-corps au dessus des montants avec des feuilles d'ornements sur les angles et sur les arrière-corps; la dite moulure bien ciselée, évaluée à raison de 60 # par chaque pied; ce qui revient pour les dits 6 pieds 6 lignes à la somme de...362 # 10s"

"Pour avoir doré d'or moulu la dit moulure, l'avoir surdorée et l'avoir mise en couleur mate, la somme de...362 # 10s"

The two short fillets around the frames above the columns beating a lion mask and those on the long frame of the main frieze decorated with rose-leaf garland:

"Pour la cadre de la traverse de la dit cheminée, avec les deux petits bouts au dessus des montants, avoir employé 11 pieds 4 pouces de doucine unie, évaluées à la somme de 3 # par pied; ce qui revient pour les dits 11 pieds 4 pouces à celle de...34"

The rose-leaf  garland of the main frieze:

"Pour la frise composée de branches de rose entrelacée bien ciselées et évidées à jour, laquelle porte 4 pieds 6 puces de longueur sur 2 pouces de hauteur; chaque pied estimé à la somme de 192 #, fait pour les dits 4 pieds 5 pouces, celle de...848"

The two small square panels on the frieze above the columns:

"Pour 2 branches de roses qui sont dans les panneaux des bouts de la traverse au dessus des montants; chaque morceau portent 3 pouces 1/2 de longueur sure 2 pouce de hauteur; les dites 2 branches de rose estimeés ensemble à la somme de...240"

Pour avoir doré d'or moulu et mis en couleur mate les trios cadres de la dite traverse et les frises, celle de...1.150"

The fillets on the concave niches behind the two columns:

"Pour les 2 cadres en doucine uni pour les deux tours creuses de montants de la dite cheminée, avoir employé 11 pieds 7 pouces de moulures à raison de 3 # chaque pieds, ce revient pour les dits 11 pieds 7 pouces à celle de...34 # 15s"

The upper rings of the columns, cast with eggs and leaves:

"Pour les ornements qui décorent la colonne, avoir fait 2 ronds d'oves et feuilles d'ornements, chaque rond portant 10 pouces de tour sur un pouce de profil, estimé à la somme de 48 #, revient pour les dits 2 ronds à celle de...96"

The rings under the capitals of the columns:

"Pour 2 cercles en narcelles de chacun 8 pouces de tour sur 9 lignes de développement, chaque cercles estimé à 18 #, ce revient pour les dits deux cercles à la somme de...36"

The ring at the base of the columns:

"Pour 2 autres cercles décorés de feuilles d'eau et graines; chaque cercle portent un pied de  tour sur onze lignes de développement porté à la somme de 48 #, fait pour les dits deux cercles, celle de...96"

The myrtle branches on the capital of the columns:

"Pour 6 branches de mytre, tournant à l'entour des gorges des colonnes; chaque branche protant 4 pouces de longueur portée à la somme de 10 #, fait pour les dites 6 branches de mytre, celle de...60"

The upper mounts on the flutings of the columns:

"Pour avoir fait 14 chutes en culots d'ornements de chacun 3 pouces 4 lignes de longueur, ces chutes sont posées dans le haut des cannelures des colonnes et sont évaluées à 6 # chacune; ce qui revient pour les dites 14 chutes à la somme de...84"

The lower mounts in the flutings of the columns:

"Pour les 14 chandelles unies montant dans les mêmes cannelures et portent chacune 8 pouces de hauteur et au dessus de chaque chandelle 3 culots d'ornements enfilés avec des piastres; chaque bout portent 5 pouce de hauteur; ce qui forme avec chaque chandelle un pied un pouce de hauteur à raison de 12 # chacune; fait pour les 14 chandelles, celle de...168"

"Pour 2 boutons unis pour placer les bout des dites cannelures, estimés ensemble à cella de...8"

"Pour avoir doré d'or moulu surdoré et mis en couleur mate tous les ornements des susdites colonnes composant ensemble un nombre de 56 pièces, estimé en totalité à la somme de...800"

The ormolu banding in the form of a twisted ribbon around the opening of the fireplace:

"Pour avoir fait avec grand sujétion 9 pieds 10 pouces de moulures à rubans et feuilles d'ornements sur les angles du cadre formant tout le tour du dedans de la cheminée; chaque pied de la dite moulure porté à la somme de 40 # fait pour les dites 9 pieds 10 pouces, celle de...393 # 6s"

"Pour avoir doré d'or moulu et surdoré les 9 pieds 10 pouces de moulures ci-dessus; chaque pied de moulure porté à la somme de 48 #, ce qui revient pour les dites 9 pieds 10 pouces à...472"

Finally:

"Pour avoir fait toutes les montures des bronzes sur les marbres, soudures, ragréures et toutes les vis en fer montée à écrous, tout à travers les marbres et pour avoir fait percer tout les trous avec la plus grande sujétion, la dite monture estimée en totalité à la somme de...400"

"Pour avoir moulé en sable et fondu en cuivre tous les ornements et moulures qui décorent la dite cheminée, lesquels forment ensemble un poids de 21 livres 8 onces à raison de 5 # la livre, ce qui revient pour les dites 21 livres 8 ounces, à...107 # 1"

In total, the fireplace surround was billed to Madame du Barry with 5,752 # 11s.

The present fireplace surround shows strong similarities in design and construction to another, slightly larger, chimneypiece also designed by Claude-Nicolas Ledoux and supplied by Pierre Gouthière in 1771 for the oval salon in Madame du Barry's Pavillion at Louveciennes, illustrated John Whitehead, The French Interior in the Eighteenth Century, 1992, p. 109. The similarities include the breakfront top mounted with a band of ormolu acanthus leaves below, the rectangular ormolu panel on each side of the central panel, the actual construction and joining of the marble sections and the unsual shallow panelled recesses containing the columns on each side. On this fireplace surround, the ormolu mounts of the upper section of each fluted column are impressed with a different Arabic number and with a diaper stamp containing the initials "M.S." flanking a dolphin in a shield, a mark usually associated with goldsmiths and silversmiths. This mark is found on other mounts as well. A collaboration with another craftsman in not unlikely and in fact Gouthière is recorded in a court case having worked with F. T. Germain though the present stamp is probably that of an unidentified founder (the names of the sculpteur-marbrier of the fireplace surround is also unknown). The way these mounts have been mounted into the marble is identical to that used for most of the ormolu mounts executed by Gouthière; for example, the bronzes on the bleu turquin marble table made in 1781 for the duchesse de Mazarin, now in the Frick Collection, see Theodore Dell, Furniture in the Frick Collection, Vol. VI, New York, 1992, pp. 105-123.

Pierre Gouthière (1732-1813)

Admitted to the Corporation des Doreurs in 1758 and appointed doreur seul ordinaire of the Menus Plaisirs, he was possibly the greatest Parisian ciseleur-doreur of the Louis XVI period and also the inventor of the dorure au mat. His work is often associated with fireplace surrounds as he executed many such pieces for royal clients, including two other fireplaces commissioned by Madame du Barry for Fontainebleau in 1771-2, now in Louis XVI's library at Versailles. The slowness in paying of his clients, which included the duc d'Aumont, the duchesse de Mazarin, the comte d'Artois and the marchand-mercier Daguerre, was one of the main causes which led him to bankruptcy in 1787, after which little is known about his activity.           

Claude Nicolas Ledoux (1736-1806)

Ledoux, whose master was Contant d'Ivry, was Madame du Barry's architect. He believed that interior decoration should be an integral part of the architecture of a building that should be brought back under the control of the architect. Ledoux favored a new style of architecture and designed original and creative interiors. Although sometimes criticized for being too eccentric, designs by Ledoux never left people with a feeling of indifference. Among his projects are the Hôtel d'Uzès (demolished) in 1768 whose magnificent salon de compagnie is now installed in the Musée Carnavalet, the Café Militaire and the salon of the Hôtel Hosten (demolished) in 1793.        

Madame du Barry (1743-1793)

Born Jeanne Bécu, an illegitimate daughter of a seamstress, Madame du Barry, who became Louis XV's mistress in 1768 and was officially introduced at the court a year later, installed herself at Versailles in 1770. When Louis XV died in 1774, she retired to Louveciennes, a property that had been given to her by the King in 1769 and that included buildings from the seventeenth century later restored by Ange-Jacques Gabriel. Claude Nicolas Ledoux (1736-1806) was commissioned to design new buildings in the Neoclassical style but the project for the chateau was never completed and only the Pavillion and the Temple d'Amour were finished. The former can be considered as the first Neoclassical building, which contributed to the spread of the new style at court. On July 29, 1770 Ledoux asked Gouthière to cast all the elements of the ormolu decoration after designs provided by the architect himself. This commission included not only furniture mounts but also window and door handles, chandeliers, wall-lights, chenets and chimneypieces, see ibid., p. 577. The project started in 1771 and was completed by 1773. In total, Gouthière billed du Barry with 134, 218 livres, 8 sols, 4 deniers for all his works in ormolu, including the present fireplace surround. All the fireplace surrounds made for Louveciennes were confiscated in 1793 by the Revolutionary Government, although no chimney pieces appeared in the subsequent sales. At the Revolution, Madame du Barry emigrated to England in 1791-92 where she found he jewels that had previously been stolen. She foolishly returned to France, where she was arrested in 1793 by the Revolutionary Tribunal and beheaded in December of the same year.

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