Charles X style

Charles X style lasted from 1818 to 1834, partly during the reign of Charles X, comte d’Artois, during the Bourbon Restoration. One of the main features is the softening of shapes from the Empire style, as pieces of furniture were curvier. Dimensions were decreased so that pieces of furniture could fit smaller appartments. Comfort was one of the key-words in the making of furniture.
The use of bois clairs - light woods in warm blond tones such as bird's-eye maple – as well as marquetry and inlaid decorations made out of dark woods were fashionable as they suggested the monarchist splendour.
Charles X style, which took some features from the Empire style while differing from it, allowed a transition to Louis-Philippe style, as the abundant decorations broke definitively with the sobriety and Neoclassicism from the French Empire. For instance, the "style à la cathédrale" (cathedral-inspired style) started during Charles’s reign and thrived during Louis-Philippe’s.

Louis-Robert Carrier-Belleuse

Louis-Robert Carrier-Belleuse was a painter, sculptor, ceramist and bronzier, son of the renowned sculptor Albert-Ernest Carrier-Belleuse. After studied at the School of fine arts in Paris, he started at the Salon of 1870 as painter, then, from 1889, also as sculptor.

Louis-Robert Carrier-Belleuse began a ceramist career thanks to Theodore Deck who introduced him to this process in 1877. He worked at Sèvres factory, where his father was the director of art since 1875, then at the Faïencerie de Choisy-le-Roi, and became the artistic director in 1889.

If Louis-Robert was especially renowned in his lifetime for his paintings, whose some are now kept in French museums, his ceramic works are surely part of his most original work. Putti carved in relief, thanks to the process of the "pâte sur pâte" ("paste on paste"), in phantasmagorical representations, became his specialty.

The Crystal

Lead glass, or crystal, is a type of glass whose high lead content gives to it many technical as well as aesthetic benefits that have contributed to make it the highest form of glass.

Crystal is appreciated, since its discovery in the XVIIth century, for its brilliance, its transparency and its particular sound. A century later, Bohemian crystal introduced the notion of art of the table before French crystal, at the end of the same century, was put in the spolight thanks to its elegance envied as much as appreciated.

The Parisian society Escalier de Cristal, in particular, brought this material up to date by proposing the new mix of bronze and crystal. French creation was mainly concentrated in the north-east of France. This is where the crystal factories of Saint-Louis and Baccarat but also the Ecole de Nancy around Emile Gallé were born.

Exceptionnal antique cast iron fireback with the coat of arms of Jean-Baptiste Colbert, marquis of Seignelay

Cast iron

H. : 110 cm / 43'' 5/16 ; W. : 117cm / 46'' 1/16 ; D. : 5 cm / 2''

Last quarter of the 17th century, France.

This exceptional cast iron fireback is decorated with the winged coat of arms of Jean-Baptiste Colbert de Seignelay, son of Louis XIV’s minister. It has a rolling viper on its center (or « bisse » using the French heraldic vocabulary) standing on his tail (« en pal »).

The edge of the cartouche – which is decorated with shells – is not a simple ornemental element, it is indeed the necklace of the Order of Saint Michael (« l’Ordre de Saint-Michel »), a chivalric order founded in 1469 in Amboise by Louis XI. It bears a medallion on which the archangel is bringing the Dragon down. When the future King visited the Duke of Burgundy’s court, he was impressed by the splendour and the prestige of the Order of the Golden Fleece (« l’Ordre de la Toison d’Or ») which enabled him to ensure favours from a great number of princes. Louis XI, as a King, created the « ordre et aimable compagnie de monsieur saint Michel ». The figure of the archangel which decorated the royal banners since Charles VII’s reign was a response to the annexation of Saint Georges by the British. The famous Saint Michael’s Mount resisted against all the British agressions during the One Hundred Years’ War. Louis XIV reformated the royal Order with two laws in 1661 and 1665 so only a few hundred knights who had exerted a military or a judicial function for at least ten years remained. The necklace had gradually lapsed and was completely ignored in the King’s reform. However it lasted in the heraldic field as confirmed by our cast iron fireback.

Jean-Baptiste Colbert de Seignelay was indeed a member of the Ordre de Saint-Michel but also a member of the Order of the Holy Spirit (« l’Ordre du Saint-Esprit ») which was founded more than a century after the former. It was created by Henri III, King of France and Poland, in december 1578. The Order meant to invigorate the catholic faith and religion, to restore the kingdom, to tighten the links with the nobility and to compensate the Ordre de Saint-Michel’s decadence. Knights of the Ordre du Saint-Esprit were first made knights of the Ordre de Saint-Michel which confered them the status of « chevaliers des ordres du roi » (knights of the King’s Orders). So the cross has on one side the image of Saint Michael and a dove on the other side as you can see on our cast iron fireback. The cross has eight pommeté tips and a fleur-de-lis on each angle. Other elements from the necklace are visible on our fireback such as the crowned « H » in reference to Henri III, the fleur-de-lis or some militaria. Knights used to have on their crest the necklace of the Ordre de Saint-Michel encompassed by the one of the Ordre du Saint-Esprit.

Jean-Baptiste Colbert’s coat of arms is visible on an engraving kept in the Musée Carnavalet in Paris. It is a portray of the marquis by the French painter Pierre Mignard. It is inserted in a medaillion which has the coat of arm with the « bisse », the crown and the two necklaces.

Pierre Mignard, Jean-Baptiste Colbert, Marquis de Seignelay, engraving by Gérard Edelinck (Antwerp, 1640 - Paris, 1707, engraver), Musée Carnavalet, Paris.

On our cast iron fireback, the central coat of arms also has the crown of the marquis and a pair of wings. It is surmounted by olive branches with its fruits, a symbol of wisdom, glory and triumph. On both sides, foliated scrolls, flowers and volutes spread out. The head of a dog with a large studded collar and the head of a horse end with scrolls which are covered by Acanthus leaves. They support an architraved cornice decorated with a pine cone and bearing various attributes such as books (as a symbol of knowledge) but also parchment leaves which could be maps and a compass. The marquis de Seignelay was indeed admitted by the king to assist his father regarding Navy matters in particular. At his death, he succeded him as the Secretary of State for Louis XIV’s Navy (« secrétaire d’Etat de la Marine de Louis XIV ») until his own death in 1690. He finalised and signed the Black Code engaged by his father and secured the French Navy’s power. He played a part in the bombardment of Genoa in 1684 and in the cap Béveziers’ battle in 1690. He was appointed Minister of State in 1689.

After the work of Jean Bérain, Tenture des Attributs de la marine, 1689-1692, Musée du Louvre, Paris.

Well known for his expensive taste, he spearheaded a sublime tapestry with the attributes of the Navy in six parts, two portieres and four « entre-fenêtres » which is kept in the Louvre Museum. It is one of the most documented tapestries from Louis XIV’s reign and on the the rare works which can be direcly linked to Jean Berain’s work. Colbert de Seignelay asked him, in 1685, to organise the great party he gave in the honour of the King in his castle of Sceaux. The tapestry was ordered for this castle and has been spun from 1689 to 1692 so his widow Catherine-Thérèse de Matignon-Thorigny inherited of it.

Our exceptional cast iron fireback is reproduced in the book of Henri Charpentier "Les Plaques de cheminées" and in Philippe Palasi's work intitled "Plaques de cheminées héraldiques". Only two other copies of it are known : the first one is kept in the Musée Carnavalet, in Paris and the second one in the Sceaux Castle.

Victorian Style

In the artistic field, the Victorian era was characterised by a veritable eclectism in terms of forms and sources of inspiration which were drawn in previous historical periods. This great diversity contrasted with the late century and stems from different social and economical factors related to the Industrial Revolution and to the rise of a new bourgeoisie. Close to the Napoleon III style which developed in France during the same period, it is a composite style, a symbol of luxury and greatness distinguishable by its richness, its variety and its diversity. Traditions of the past mix with current trends such as Romanticism, the Oriental taste or the Aesthetic Movement which preached Art for Art's Sake, celebrated the cult of beauty and impregnated all the artistic fields. A supreme symbol of luxury and elegance, the French taste had also known a great success between 1835 and 1880.
The Victorian style was marked, towards the en of the 19th century, by two new styles : the Arts and Crafts Movement and the Liberty and Co Style. The former developed in Great Britain and then spread accross Europe, in America and in Japan. The artists participated in this trend by advocating the craftman’s work, a simplier way of life and wanted to improve domestic design. The latter is inspired by Japan, China, Persia, India or Egypt. Its name comes from a very fashionable London store of the time. Anglo-Oriental artifacts were displayed along with items from current trends and then Art Nouveau