Madame Elisabeth, sister of King Louis XVI
Elisabeth Philippine Marie Hélène of France called Madame Elisabeth was born in 1764 (fig. 1). Granddaughter of King Louis XV and sister of King Louis XVI, her household was created in 1778 when she was fourteen years old. Several refurbishments of her apartments and residences were then orchestrated including that of Montreuil in 1787, estate she received from her brother in 1783 following its purchase from the Guéméné family, but also for the Châteaux of Versailles and Fontainebleau.
Two numbers, 23 and FN 78, are present on our pair of chenets corresponding respectively to the inventories for the Châteaux of Versailles in 1785 and Fontainebleau in 1787. The inventory of the furniture at Fontainebleau described them precisely in old French:
"78. A fire accessory with gilt-bronze overlaying of ground gold ornamentation on the front of a column capitol, on which are placed two lovebirds on a cloud, the accessory adorned on the front with a frieze framed by beaded row, top ornated with a garland of grape vine leaves and grapes, on the side of the plinth decorated with a garland idem on which is placed a censer surmounted by a flame decorated with three faun heads carried by 3 deer feet, the one of 16 inches wide by 17 inches high, shovel, poker, and tongs with gilt bronze rivet"
(AN O1 3398, fol. 143-144)
Madame Elisabeth could not benefit very long from these deliveries. Sent to Paris in 1789, jailed in the Temple Prison after August 1792, she was executed after her brother and sister-in-law on 10 May 1794.
The Pitoin father and son
Quentin-Claude Pitoin (1725-1777), melted, chased, and gilded several exceptional furniture bronzes. Doreur du Roi [Gilder to the King] following his father-in-law, he entered the Saint-Luc Academy in 1752. His first Neo-Classical works, proving the revival of Antiquity and Grand Siècle forms, were probably the pair of chenets for the Grand Cabinet of the Dauphine Marie Antoinette at Versailles in 1771 (still kept in situ, inv. OA 5177, fig.3) and the pair of chenets called stag and boar delivered for Madame Du Barry's salon at Fontainebleau in 1772 (Musée du Louvre, inv. OA 5175).
We must include in 1775 the fireplace delivered for Madame Adelaide's room at Fontainebleau (deposit of the French national furniture at the Chateau of Versailles, inv. GML 5870.1 and .2), and the same year for King Louis XVI's bedroom at Versailles still in situ (inv. V 4478, fig.4). Quentin-Claude died on 3 June 1777. His son Claude-Jean then took over as head of the family workshop and succeeded his father as a chaser to the Garde-Meuble. It is to him that our pair can be attributed.
In 1779, he realized the famous pair of chenets with lyre motifs for Marie Antoinette's interior cabinet called the golden cabinet at Versailles (inv. V 4371), adapting the model created two years earlier by his father for Fontanieu, the superintendent to the Crown Garde-Meuble. By this example, as well as the work realized with a pair of wall lights for the King's council salon at the Château of Compiègne (Château of Compiègne, inv. C 64043), Pitoin father and son demonstrate once again that the reputation earned during the second half of the 18th century is justified by the high quality of their chasing and application of different shades of gold in order to play with light and create relief effects.
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