Remarkable fire fender with sphinxes

Cast iron and gilt bronze

H : 72 cm / 28'' 3/8 ; L : 124 cm / 48'' 13/16 ; D : 24 cm / 9'' 7/16

Ca. 1880, France.

This fire fender made of gilt bronze and cast iron with bronze patina was made around 1880 after Frédéric Eugène Piat and is attributed to The Val d’Osne Company.

Connected by a central bar, the two andirons are adorned with female sphinxes, figures of Greek mythology. Female sphinxes have an animal body similar to a feline, and a woman's head. Some strength and vigor emanate from these two figures with protruding muscles, with a bent chest, with sharp claws, with a proud and impassive look. These characteristics accentuate their role as guardians. These two creatures, although monstrous, have a certain femininity both through the nobility of their way of holding her head and the many attires they wear. On their breast is a kind of flowery diadem and a piece, worked as a fabric and adorned with foliage, covers their shoulders. Their wings are prolonged by volutes and their head, wearing a chignon, is surmounted by a vase with handles made of gilt bronze.

They are seated upright on antique-inspired pedestals connected by the central bar. A gilt bronze rosette is fixed on these pedestals and constasts on the cast iron with auburn tones.

The central bar is very finely decorated whith volutes and flowers.

The sphinxes that adorn these andirons were made after Eugène Piat who made a pair of white marble sphinxes presented at the Salon of 1874 and similar to ours.

This motif of the sphinxes is an exception in the work of Eugene Piat but will have a certain fortune since two reproductions are exhibited at the Troyes museum: while a model, made of cast iron, was directly mold on the original model, the other, in plaster, is a reduction. Piat is the founder of this museum, which today has the most of his public works. This museum was inaugurated on May 31, 1894 and is considered as the symbol of the recognition of his career.

Frédéric Eugène Piat, Pair of female sphinxes, 1873, white marble, Salon of 1874, Selling at Drouot, june 2004, 115 000 euros.

Sphinge, after Eugène Piat, cast iron, Val d’Osne company, Troyes Museum.

Sphinge, plaster reduction,
in three-quarters view

Frédéric-Eugène Piat (1827-1903) is one of the most important French sculptors and ornamentalists of the 19th century with Louis-Constant Sévin in particular, who participated in the renewal and development of the French art bronze industry. He was active member of the Bronzes Manufacturers' Meeting (French : Réunion des fabricants de bronzes) and was part of those who have merged art and industry. He later became one of the founders of the Central Union of Fine Arts Applied to Industry (French : Union Centrale des Beaux-arts appliqués à l’Industrie) in 1864.

After setting with sculptors and ornamentalists, he started his own business in 1845 and enjoyed a good reputation in the 1850s. During the next decade, he began a collaboration with the founder Louis Léon Marchand (1831-1899). In the 1870s, he collaborated with eminent manufacturers: Georges Edouard Gagneau, Charles de Marnyhac, Emile Colin or the Val d'Osne Foundry.

The date of creation and exhibition of the sphinxes made of marble, model of our fire fender, corresponds to transition in the life of Piat. It is indeed from the year 1873 that takes place his artistic consecration: while he designed models to be exhibited at the Vienna World Fair in 1873, he received the visit of the President of the Republic Adolphe Thiers who made him Knight of the Order of the Legion of Honor for his fruitful contribution in the field of art bronze industry.

He participated in the Parisian Salons and in nine World Fairs during the second half of the century. Notably, he was very noticed during the Paris World Fair in 1878, where he exhibited a vast collection of objects and received a gold medal, but especially during the one of 1889, during which he was decorated with the Grand Prix, highest reward ever given to an industrial artist. Thanks to the quality and to the style of his productions, in keeping with the taste of the time for historicism and eclecticism, like our fire fender, Piat enjoyed a national but also international reputation.

Sales Catalog, Val d'Osne Company.

The cast iron model was edited by the Val d'Osne foundry. An illustration in a sales catalog suggests this model has been poduced in several copies, but also with some variations to correspond to various objects, as evidenced by this other illustration on which two models of candelabra are also inspired by Piat. The elements enthroned on their heads and supporting the light are similar to the decorative vases of our sphinxes. As consequence, it may be stated that our fire fender was also produced by the Val d'Osne foundry whose production was at the time very prolific.

The Val d'Osne company is an art foundry created in 1835 by Jean Pierre Victor André, inventor of cast iron ornament, to manufacture urban furniture in particular. While his workshops were located at Val d'Osne in the department Haute-Marne in the northeast of France, his head office and his exhibition store were located at 58, boulevard Voltaire, in the 11th district of Paris. At his death, his nephew, Hippolyte André (1826-1891), took over the case. The foundry was very important to the point where the foundry soon absorbed competing companies like André, Barbezat and Ducel. It thus becomes the most important society in art cast iron in France.

Sales Catalog, Val d'Osne Company.

Famous for its contemporaries, particularly thanks to its monumental fountains, statues and large cast iron groups made after classical antique models or contemporary models, the foundry won several medals at exhibitions of products from French industry. It received a bronze medal in 1834, a silver medal in 1839, and gold medals in 1844 and 1845. It also participated at the World Fairs in London in 1851, in Paris in 1855, in Santiago in 1875, in Melbourne in 1879, in Paris in 1878, where it won the Grand Prix and two gold medals, in 1889 (not competing and jury member) and 1900 (not competing and jury member). This same year, it realized the four large gilded bronze set for the Alexandre III bridge.

Renommée (la Guerre), Pont Alexandre III, Paris, 1900,
Val d'Osne.

The sales catalogs of the company allow us today to appreciate the diversity of its objects and its various sources of inspiration. Because what made the reputation of the company, it is also its frequent collaborations with the greatest artists of the time among whom Carrier-Belleuse, Mathurin Moreau, Pradier and of course Eugène Piat.

Val d'Osne Foundry, Gallery of models.

Exceptional antique Regency style complete paneled room in mahogany marquetry

Mahogany marquetry, wood of various varieties, stucco, Breccia Nuvolata marble, parquet, stained glass.

H : 224 cm / 88’’3/16 ; W : 569 cm / 224’’ ; D. : 600 cm / 236’’1/4

End of the 19th century, France

This exceptional Regency style woodwork with its fireplace was made in France in the late 19th century. This set is characterized by its remarkable marquetry work. The dominant use of mahogany, the decor made of large smooth surfaces and the ornamental vocabulary inspired by Antiquity and Etruscan style are characteristic of the Regency style which occured in Britain from the late 18th century to the 1830s. It ocrresponds to the last period of the Georgian style.

The set consists of four walls where are inserted the various elements: a fireplace and its mirror, a vitrine, two doors, a large mirror and two windows. This woodwork has a very fine and elaborate marquetry decoration made of mahogany and wood of various varieties, particularly lemon wood. The particularity lies in the many contrasts between light woods and darker woods. The jambs of the fireplace, consisting of elegant detached ionic columns, support for example a frieze decorated with mahogany marquetry and light wood. At its center are highlighted Griffins, foliage, acanthus leaves and an Antique-inspired vase. These veneer ornaments echo with the dominant taste, characteristic of the period, for smooth surfaces where the decorations are integrated into the whole.

John Nash (1752-1835), Brighton Pavilion, ca. 1820

We find this aspect in the interiors created by one of the leading architects of the period, John Nash (1752-1835), as in this watercolor representing the room of King George IV in the Brighton Pavilion in the 1820’s.

We The fireplace’s interior is made of Breccia Nuvolata marble whose clarity and brightness constrasts with the wood. The many carved friezes, typical of the style, support the straight lines of this fireplace surmonted by a large rectangular mirror. The sculptural friezes imitating Antique Greek and Roman architecture enjoyed a particular succes at the beginning of the 19th century. For example they adorn Regency style buildings and a lot of objects and the cabinetmaker George Smith devoted several pages in his book A collection of Designs for Household Furniture and interior decoration to this ornament. in this watercolor representing the room of King George IV in the Brighton Pavilion in the 1820’s.

Smith, George, Collection of designs for household furniture and interior decoration, 1808.

Another frieze, adorned with small asparagus heads, separates the wood panels with the upper part made of stucco on wood. Stucco is a very popular material for Regency style buildings and interiors. In the second half of the 18th century in Great Britain, were filed several patents concerning stucco. However its use remained discreet until the well-known Regency style architect John Nash (1752-1835) introduced it into its buildings. Stucco quickly became a means of imitation stone and its use spread out thanks to its simplicity and its uniform whiteness which seduced architects and interior designers.

The space made of stucco has a very fine decor with an Antique Greek inspired ornamental vocabulary which, at the turn of the 18th and the 19th centuries, has a surge of interest in Great Britain with for example Lord Byron. Two Antique vases are placed on three-footed athenians with rams' heads. Large moldings representing foliage, rosettes and other curves overhang the whole. An egg-and-dart frieze delimits the walls and the ceiling.

Antiquity then corresponded to a refinement and a certain rigor as much as to the taste for distant lands. Many archaeologists or simple amateurs from privileged classes thus traveled the Greek world and brought patterns and objects. This passion marked above all the first period of the Regency style, which can be delimited from 1790 to 1820, which corresponded to the beginning of the regency of the Kingdom of England by the Prince of Wales (1762-1830) until his accession to the throne. This style was concomitant with the Directoire style in France.

The Egyptian Room and The Vase Room, Household Furniture & Interior Decoration, Thomas Hope, 1807.

Thomas Hope, rich collector, traveler, decorator and writer became one of the references in Regency style interior decoration. Keen on Antiquity, he traveled through ancient Europe, Greece, Turkey, Egypt, from where he brought back a certain taste for classic lines and many objects. We can for example see in the interiors of his London home that he remodels with a series of theme interiors that will gain visibility thanks to his book Household Furniture and Interior Decoration published in 1807.

The geometric shapes, typical of the style because echoing to the straight lines of Antiquity, are also recurrent. The marquetry floor, above all, presents a remarkable geometrical decoration whose colors echo those of the whole. It is decorated at its ends with warm air heating made of brass.

Two doors, on either side, are surmounted by a medallion, as cameos, in the style of Wedgwood. They represent two dancing characters in Antique-inspired clothes on a blue background.
William Hackwood after Henry Webber, 1790-1795, Wedgwood Museum.

This motif is also on the center of the polychrome stained glass that adorn the windows of the wall adjacent to it. If these stained glass windows take the typical ornamental vocabulary of the style (rosette, foliage, curves, waves, knots, geometric shapes, draperies, bell flowers), they are a trace of one of the other Regency style inspirations, the Neo-Gothic, born in England in architecture at the middle of the 18th century.

This room thus takes the codes of the English Regency style which developed in England from the 1790s to the 1830s. If Antiquity marked especially the first phase of the style (1790-1820), this inspiration continued during the second period (1820- 1830) which corresponded in England to the reign of George IV. The decor became more ostentatious in comparison with the lightness of the first phase. Dark woods, especially mahogany, were increasingly used for furniture. The style was characterized by large smooth surfaces like our woodwork.

Made at the end of the century in France, this woodwork is part of the revival of styles that animate the arts throughout this century. This piece is very complex while having a pure and refined aesthetic. If the stucco part is characterized by purity and lightness, the woodwork is more opulent and imposing.

Louis XVI style fireplace in Arabescato marble with quiver-shaped columns after the model from the Château de Fontainebleau designed by Pierre-Marie Rousseau in 1786

Arabescato marble, gilt bronze, cast iron insert .

Height : 110 cm (43’’5/16) ; Width : 194.5 cm (76’’9/16) ; Depth : 40 cm (15’’3/4).

19th century.

Made after the fireplace of the Silver Boudoir at the Château de Fontainebleau
designed by Pierre-Marie Rousseau in 1786.

This sumptuous Louis XVI style fireplace in Arabescato marble subtly veined and richly decorated with gilt bronze was made in the 19th century. With important dimensions, it was made after the fireplace model placed at the Château de Fontainebleau in the Silver Boudoir (in french : Boudoir d’argent) of Marie-Antoinette designed by the architect Pierre-Marie Rousseau in 1786 and whose it is the first important work for the court.

View of the Silver Boudoir, Château de Fontainebleau.

On the frieze are intertwined a crown of flowers and a bow on which run ivy branches, climbing plant associated with vitality in Antiquity. The bronze of these motifs is very elaborate, especially on the ivy’s stems. The frieze of acanthus leaves on the upper part and the finer one of bell flowers on the lower part of the frieze, both made of gilt bronze, support the straight lines of the fireplace.

Fireplace of the Silver Boudoir, Château de Fontainebleau.

According to Yves Carlier in Le Boudoir de Marie-Antoinette à Fontainebleau, it is probable that the sculptor Philippe-Laurent Roland (1746-1816), who is the creator of plaster figures representing Muses located above the doors, intervened also for the model of the fireplace’s bronzes and the windows’s espagnolettes, elements then realized by the bronzemaker Claude-Jean Pitoin. The white marble of the original fireplace, meanwhile, had been shaped by the marble worker Jacques-François Dropsy.

Our fireplace is the exact replica of the one of Fontainebleau, although it has some elements inherited from its century: it has curved sides, additions typical of the 19th century, adorned with crowns of roses, but designed with an eighteenth taste: as naturalistic rosettes, they are suspended by a ribbon. In the same spirit, the cast iron interior added to our model is decorated with branches and knots that intertwine.

The jambs, delicately fluted, take the form of a quiver with arrows whose feathers are made of gilt bronze. A frieze of knotted laurel branches on which stands a small lion head adorns them. This quiver motif, characteristic of the Louis XVI style, is a leitmotif in the Boudoir : on the feet of the two armchairs, on those of the stool and of the mother-of-pearl inlaid writing desk designed by Jean-Henri Riesener and on the shutters’s hooks.
Claude-Jean Pitoin, Platinum of the shutter’s hooks in the Silver Boudoir, Château de Fontainebleau.
Rodolphe Pfnor, Espagnolette of the Boudoir, drawing.

This boudoir thus has a perfect ornamental harmony: the silver-gold color of the decorative panels echo on the mother-of-pearl secretary and on the firescreen, now preserved at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and designed by Georges Jacob, who is also the author of the seats; while some of the motifs, such as quivers, or pearls and ribbons, match each other. Indeed, the motif of the bow and the crown of flowers in gilt bronze present on the frieze of this fireplace adorn also the upper part of the seats and the firescreen. The original fireplace and this shimmering decor with multiple reflections go perfectly together as the whole was designed as a total work of art.

View of the Silver Boudoir, Château de Fontainebleau.
Georges Jacob, firescreen, ca. 1786, carved beech tree, gilt and silvered, brocade,
Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC.

Built through ages, the Château de Fontainebleau was the residence of the French sovereigns from Francis I of France to Napoleon III. Nicknamed the "House of the centuries" by Napoleon I, it is thus the testimony of several styles and historical phases. If the first traces of a construction date back to the 12th century, the Palace mainly consists of Renaissance and classical styles elements. The one who is considered as the royal emblem of the French Renaissance, Francis I of France, made of the Palace one of its main residences and undertook several modernization works. Henry IV of France in turn enlarged the Palace, works continued, without major changes, by Louis XIII of France.
Château de Fontainebleau.

In the 18th century, Fontainebleau, replaced by the Palace of Versailles, symbol of the monarchy, was nonetheless a hunting place and society mettings but also the place for some political and diplomatic meetings. Notably, the Palace welcomed the signing of three treaties including two during the reign of Louis XVI: the Treaty of Fontainebleau signed between Austria and the Netherlands in 1785 and a treaty of business at the end of the American Revolutionary War between France and England in 1786. 1786 was also the year of the last trip of the Court to Fontainebleau during which the sovereigns had the opportunity to discover the new arrangements ordered last autumn, including the two cabinets for the Queen. One, with an exotic decor, is the Turkish Boudoir, the other, the Boudoir of the Queen, or Silver Boudoir, with the most refined decor, where is the original model of our fireplace. Named after the gold-framed silver funds on which are painted, among flowers and arabesques, grotesques painted by Michel-Hubert Bourgois and Jacques-Louis-François Touzé, the Silver Boudoir is between the rooms of the Queen and the one of the King. Created under the direction of the architect Pierre-Marie Rousseau according to the taste of the Queen, the Boudoir has an antique decor whose Marie-Antoinette was keen and whose our fireplace and its original model have some traces.

Jules-Marc-Antoine Frappaz, The Boudoir of Marie-Antoinette, 1876, oil on canvas, Musée national du Château de Fontainebleau

The Château was emptied of its furniture after the French Revolution, with consequently its dispersion since 1796. Napoleon I, who will spend the last days of his reign, gave a second life to the palace from 1804: he ordered arrangements and some operas and plays. Then, Louis XVIII and Charles X will make rare stays at the Château, while Louis-Philippe will be at the origin of the first restoration works. During the 19th century took place the latest works at the palace, which, in 1862, was listed as a historical monument. Under the Second Empire, the Palace became one of the holiday resorts of the court with Saint-Cloud, Compiègne and Biarritz: the Empress Eugenie will also be fond of the Turkish Boudoir. At the beginning of the Third Republic, Fontainebleau hosted some social and political receptions and, on rare occasions, some Presidents. It is from this period that date the painting of Jules-Marc-Antoine Frappaz preserved in the National Museum of the Château de Fontainebleau and on which is represented our fireplace surrounded by furnitures installed during the 19th century.

Our fireplace with its superb decoration, exact replica of the model of origin, is both the testimony of the splendors of the 18th century and of the history of the Château de Fontainebleau than the evolution of the fireplace in the 19th century.


CARLIER, Yves, Le Boudoir de Marie-Antoinette à Fontainebleau, Somogy éditions d'art, Paris, 2006.

“Tritons sounding a conch shell”, Important Louis XIV style pair of sculptures in bronze with green patina by the Valsuani Foundry

Bronze with green patina.

Height 3' 1'' ⅜ (95cm) ; Width 2' 3'' ⅛ (69cm) ; Depth 2' 5'' ⅞ (76cm)

Seal of the founder : « Cire perdue/C. VaLsuani /Paris » (« lost-wax casting / C. VaLsuani / Paris »)

Second half of 20th century.

Stone bases are from the 19th century.

Two Tritons, with swollen cheeks and muscular body, are sounding a conch shell. These two magnificent sculptures were created in the second half of the 20th century in bronze with green patina from a study by Annibale Carracci for the Palazzo Farnese in Rome dated circa 1597-1602 and exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. There is the seal of the founder : " Cire perdue/C. VaLsuani /Paris ".

Annibale Carraci, Triton Sounding a Conch Shell,
ca. 1597–1602, black chalk on paper,
The Metropolitan Museum of Art


A model inspired by a study by Annibale Carracci for the Palazzo Farnese:

The two Tritons were made from the drawing by Annibale Carracci "Triton sounding a conch shell". We can see a similar triton on the right in the renown fresco "Triumph sailor" executed on the ceiling of the Palazzo Farnese’s gallery from 1597 : the triton has the same posture, but he is represented from another angle.

Although Annibale Carrache has created most of the robust figures on the frescoes of the Farnese Gallery - nearly ninety of his drawings for it are extant and declines different postures - this fresco is not the work of Annibale, but the one of his brother, Agostino Carracci, and it is admitted that Annibale intervened in this work, including for this triton blowing in conch.

Agostino Carracci, 1597, Palazzo Farnese, Rome.
It is admitted that the triton on the right of the fresco is inspired by Annibale Carrache.

The theme of this fresco is vague but is traditionally identified as a representation of the triumph of Galatea. The two artists also seem to have designed this monumental work bearing in mind the famous Raphael fresco "The Triumph of Galatea" made in 1513 for Villa Farnesina in Rome.

A model from the French 17th century :

The extreme quality of these statues, the modelling of the flesh and muscles and the careful details, undoubtedly bring them close to the 17th century art of Versailles.

Currently exhibited at the Toledo Museum of Art (Ohio, USA), a statue from the same model as the Triton was made around 1700 in lead. Its provenance is prestigious: coming from the Paris collection of Edmond de Rothschild, this statue was subsequently bought by the great New York antique dealers, Wildenstein & Co, specialised in 18th century French painting and sculpture. In 1973, the Triton joined the collections of the Toledo museum, bestowed as a gift from Mr. and Mrs. Edward H. Alexander.

Triton Sounding a Conch Shell, circa 1700, lead, The Toledo Museum of Art

Knowledge of the Toledo statue proves the pre-existence of a model inspired by Carracci dating around the late 17th century, most certainly coming from French royal collections. Indeed, these models are firmly fixed in a period which is that of the creation of large sculptures and fountains in the garden of the Palace of Versailles, where the first decor in lead was created between 1666 and 1672.

The Tritons of the Apollo fountain, with their protruding muscles, are sounding hard a conch shell and thus they seem to have strongly inspired the creation of the model of our Triton. As much of the first decor in lead in the Versailles gardens disappeared as of 1674, including the sculptures of the Grotto of Thetis, precise knowledge of them is yet to be discovered.

Apollo fountain, Chateau de Versailles.

The tradition of French garden decorations:

The art of the French garden, whose the most extraordinary example is the Palace of Versailles, is especially the art of the jeux d’eau ( literally water games) with the installation of ponds and monumental fountains.

Although our two tritons were not originally designed for fountains (they are not pierced, but can be), their theme and the existence of similar models adapted to fountains, as the one exhibited at the Toledo Museum, bring them close to the art of French fountains.

Created by the master gardener André Le Nôtre at the request of Louis XIV, the gardens of Versailles are characterized by their spectacular gardens especially with their water games. The very important basins are pretext for the realization of large sculptures created by Marsy, Girardon, Guérin or Tuby, from drawings by Charles Le Brun, most important Court painter.

At the end of the 17th century, the gardens of the Chateau de Versailles will become a major reference among the royal courts in Europe, which in turn will create majestic French gardens with fountains and statues.

These Tritons, thanks to their material and their style, are significantly related to the art of the French gardens of the 17th century. This two sumptuous models recall this major art of the great period of King Louis XIV.

Apollo fountain, Chateau de Versailles..

The Valsuani Foundry:

The Valsuani Foundry is a bronze French art foundry located in Chevreuse (in the Parisian Region). Created in 1899 in Châtillon (near Paris) by Claude Valsuani, the foundry settled in 1905 at 74 rue des Plantes in Paris. Valsuani quickly acquires a certain notoriety thanks to its technical mastery and the excellence of his lost-wax casting production. He is especially noted for the beauty of its patinas, one of which, the most famous, is called black Valsuani.

The seal of the Valsuani Foundry
on the pair of Tritons
Auguste Rodin, The Thinker (1903), Valsuani cast,
Mexico, Soumaya Museum.

When he died, his son Marcel took over the family business before selling it to a Swiss company. In 1980, the sculptor Leonardo Benatov, who had smelted his first bronzes at the Valsuani Foundry, bought the seal and transferred the foundry to Chevreuse with the aim of perpetuating the savoir-faire of the original foundry while staying on the cutting edge of technology.

Renowned for the quality of these lost-wax casting productions, the Valsuani Foundry has worked with many great artists including Rodin, Bourdelle, Renoir, Picasso, Matisse, Degas, Gauguin, Pompon, Carpeaux, Daumier and Dalí.