Val d’Osne Foundry – Beautiful pair of statues with Indians made of cast iron

Cast iron

Dimensions of the statues: Man: H 175 cm ; W 58 cm Woman: H 175 cm ; W 53 cm

Dimensions of the base: Man: H 89 cm ; W 52 cm Woman: H 85 cm ; W 52 cm

This pair of statues in cast iron, that represents two Native American people was made by the Val d'Osne Foundry in the late 19th century.

The muscled and aquiline-nosed man is holding in his left hand a fan composed of feathers - the small tip of a feather is missing - while raising a stick, that is the base of a torch, with his right hand. In a proud and nonchalant posture, he seems to stare the one who would look up at him.

The woman – who has the same posture as the man – also holds a fan made of feathers in her right hand. She is wearing a drapery showing her breast and her neck ornamented with some jewels made of pearls and seashells.

Both the man and the woman are wearing a bracelet on the top of their arm, respectively on the right arm and on the left arm. Details are particularly refined as the accessory seems to be engraved with geometrical patterns. The posture of these statues – a marked hip movement – gives a realistic aspect enhanced by the quality of the details. Indeed, the folds of the draperies and the ribs under the woman's left arm are sculpted with high accuracy.

Sales Catalogue, Val d’Osne Company.

Sales Catalogue, Val d’Osne Company.

These two statues were made by the Val d'Osne foundry. We can find models for these sculptures in the sales catalogues of the company, with different bases and torches. On one of the pages of the sales catalogue, we can notice a model of a late 19th century fire fender in cast iron and gilt bronze with female sphinxes made after a model by Eugène Frédéric Piat (1827-1903) that is also available on our website. The illustrations of the statues representing two Native American people differ from the other models offered by the foundry – that look inspired rather by Antiquity – which makes them even more unique. They suggest a form of exoticism through a Western style as the bodies and draperies can refer to the classical models of sculptures made at the same period of time.

During the 19th century, French literature became more and more inspired by American imagery. At the beginning of the century, the writer Chateaubriand travelled to America, which led to works imbued with images of the vast lands of the continent. French literature depicted Native American people as beings close to Nature. Generally speaking, writers and painters associated the vast lands to an utopian vision. Other travellers came back to France with stories that put light on the American society and especially on the situation of Native American people. Little by little, the distance between the New and the Old continents became shorter thanks to technical progress. We can mention the creation of the first regular transatlantic liner just before the second half of the 19th century, which reduced the length of the trip to a few weeks and increased exchanges and publications of books on this subject matter. In 1866, the first transatlantic underwater telegraph cable was laid. Among the authors who influenced the image of North America in France, we can mention for instance Louis de Bellemare, also known as Gabriel Ferry (1809-1852). He knew the south of the United States well and depicted it with details, highlighting the exotic aspect of traditions. He was the pioneer of the Far West novel genre, which combined vast lands, adventure and the struggle for territorial control. These works from the 19th century marked the French imagery, especially the iconography of Native American people, and inspired the creation of sculptures that were similar to our two statues from the Val d’Osne Foundry.

Val d’Osne Foundry, Gallery of models.

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 became the most important society in art cast iron in France. 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. The sales catalogues 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 Eugène Piat.

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

This pair of statues made of cast iron representing two Native American people is particularly interesting through its original iconography and the quality of the production. As the work of the largest art foundry company in France, it embodies the increasing interest of French people for the United States at the time and the collective imagery of the New World.

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.



« The little mermaid », Sumptuous monumental fountain attributed to Rudolf Weyr, Vienna, circa 1890-95

Carrara marble, Statuary marble.

Height : 315 cm / 124” ; Width : 188 cm / 74” ; Depth : 120 cm / 47” 1/4.

Vienna, circa 1890-1895.

Sheltering a small mermaid, this fountain is a work of rare beauty. Indeed, the virtuosity of the sculptures added to a great sense of harmony, is here at the service of a work full of charm and poetry.
Decorated with panels and scrolls, this fountain is carved with extreme finesse in Carrara marble veined with a light gray. The sides are adorned with graceful bells. Its general form, with its curves falling in small scrolls, reproduces the movement of the water.

At the summit, water springs from the mouth of an old man crowned with water lilies: a river-god whose age contrasts with the freshness of the siren.
A large shell, whose marine sediments are beautifully reproduced, serves as first basin where water is collected before flowing in a curtain all around the mermaid. Thus, once in operation, this fountain exudes all the more charm.

Originating from Vienna, this sumptuous fountain was made around 1890-1895. Undoubtedly the work of an important artist, its origin thus tends to designate the great sculptor Rudolf Weyr, master of Neo-Baroque style, and amateur of Germanic folklore.

A mermaid of the Danube

The mermaid, a nymph of fresh waterways, comes precisely from the Germanic legends, where it is known to feed the fountains. That is why small coins are thrown into offerings, so that the water never dries up. Represented in the form of a young girl, the mermaid takes the form of the Scandinavian siren, fish-tailed, during the nineteenth century.

A pillar of German culture, Henrich Heine helped to anchor the importance of the mermaid Lorelei in the national folklore, with a famous poem from 1824. She was a mermaid of the Danube, the river that precisely flows through the city of Vienna.

Heine was one of the rare supporters of Danish Christian Andersen for his tale The Little Mermaid (1837), which initially met no success in his country of origin. Thus, the image of a child-sized, fish-tailed mermaid has been first popularized in the German-speaking countries during the nineteenth century, to enrich the imagination of the artists.

John William Waterhouse, A Mermaid, 1900,
Royal Academy of Arts, London.

The small siren of our fountain is protected by the river-god that shelters her under a waterfall. The latter, with his craggy features, singularly reminds the face of a fountain in Hermes Villa of Vienna, a property offered by Franz Joseph I to Empress Sissi. More than a mere resemblance, the baggy eyes under arcades furnished with thick eyebrows, the nose, the cheeks, and the foliages crown indicate an unequivocal relationship. It is a face sculpted by Rudolf Weyr, to whom we can thus attribute our mermaid fountain, especially as other indications can confirm it.
To the left, head of the river-god, Marc Maison Gallery.
To the right, « Neptune » Fountain, Hermes Villa, Vienna. River-god sculpted by Rudolf Weyr.

At the Hermes Villa, Rudolf Weyr puts a toad on the head of his divinity, and sculpts the lower face in the form of palms; While on our fountain he is wearing two flowers, and his beard mingles with the water-lilies. Thus, the two faces are thought in the same way, the same expressive features being capped with thick strands in disorder, crowned with laurels and invaded by the aquatic fauna and flora.

Portrait of Rudolf Weyr, by A. Dauthage

Rudolf Weyr, a virtuoso sculptor

Since 1873, Vienna has been a fertile ground for the arts, a splendid capital that treats its best artists. Revelation of the Vienna World’s Fair in 1873, Rudolf Weyr will be part of them, entrusted with the full-length statue of Franz Joseph I in 1898. His career took off in 1884, when the Empress Sissi gave him part of the decoration of Hermes Villa; He was then solicited by the Imperial couple for public commissions.

His most famous work is undoubtedly Die Mach zur See (“The Power on Sea”), a magnificent fountain from 1894 which adorns the imperial palace of Hofburg. The group represents an allegory taming the sea monsters and the tumult of the waves, with the support of the god Neptune.

Die Macht zur See, 1894, monumental fountain by Rudolf Weyr, north front of Hofburg Palace, Vienna.
The fountain of Hofburg Palace allows us to admire the virtuosity of Rudolf Weyr in the treatment of the flesh, able to make us feel the tension of the muscles just like the flexibility of the fins. It is an equal virtuosity that the Mermaid fountain has required, the graceful body of the little girl imperceptibly transforming into two fish tails.

Detail of Neptune, "Die Macht zur See" fountain, 1894,
Hofburg Palace, Vienna.
Young mermaid, fountain attributed to Rudolf Weyr,
Galerie Marc Maison.

The quality of sculpture is not the sole cause of this attribution. Indeed, the realism of Weyr is also special: instead of carving a Neptune in the prime of life, with a flattering body, he does not hesitate to accentuate his old age, the realistic details of protruding bones under a thin and wrinkled skin. This detail also abounds to designate Rudolf Weyr as the bust of the child, instead of being perfectly idealized, is also shown in its truth, with puny shoulders slightly, prominent ribs and bend over belly. In a 19th-century artist, the representation of such realistic details for mythological figures is a particular and distinctive choice.

Neptune, with a crown of laurels, can also be compared to the river-god, with his craggy features and his prominent cheekbones. His crown is also the same that adorns the head of the mermaid. Thus, our mermaid fountain not only corresponds to Rudolf Weyr’s date and place of activity, but also to his style and the quality of his sculpture. It should also be noted that it still corresponds to its favorite themes, the sculptor having manifested his taste for Germanic folklore.

The career of Rudolf Weyr is indeed punctuated by works referring to folklore. Associated with the project of Nueue Burg, built between 1895 and 1901, Rudolf Weyr is in charge of realizing one of the statues representing the Austro-Hungarian History. The latter, choosing to represent a Magyar warrior, wearing picturesque mats, already shows his inclination for Germanic legends.

Later, in the early twentieth century, also puts a belt adorned with Merovingian interlacing in the statue of painter Hans Canon he erects at Stadtpark in his memory. Later, he carved a bas-relief on St. Peter's Church in Vienna, representing the legend that the church was founded by Charlemagne. Here again, Weyr pays special attention to his characters wearing winged helmets, mats and thick mustaches.

Rudolf Weyr, "Magyar", 1895-1901, Neue Burg, Vienne.

A Viennese fountain of late 19th century

The fountain that we present, of a breathtaking beauty, is an exceptional work from the late nineteenth century Vienna. The capital of the Austro-Hungarian Empire has indeed become an epicenter of art, competing with Paris in the last quarter of the century. The Neo-Baroque style is at its peak, and its fantastic spirit fuels the imagination of artists like Gustave Klimt, who turn to symbolism. In this artistic effervescence, the city of Vienna is embellished with more and more fountains.
In fact, Vienna is fed with spring water, descending directly from the Alps. Today it has nearly 900 drinking water fountains, and 54 monumental fountains made by the best artists. One of the most admired is the Shell Fountain, located at the Belvedere Palace, a baroque palace completed in 1723. Tritons with fish tails support a large shell very similar to that one used as a basin in our fountain.

Shell Fountain from Belvedere Palace, Vienna, circa 1723.

This beautiful shell inspired the creation of a wall fountain at the Rothschild Bourgoin Palace in 1891. It is a fine example of a wall fountain made for an important private sponsor, which shows by comparison the level at which raises the Mermaid Fountain.
Die Mach zur See was born in a context where fountains multiply in Vienna; Thus, the angle fountain we present is, in all likelihood, a private command that follows this trend. Rudolf Weyr showed his talent in the sculpture of the sea chimeras in 1894, a Viennese sponsor was able to appeal to his talents for this graceful mermaid.

This rare fountain is exhibited in our showroom in Saint-Ouen, by appointment. You can reach us by phone:
+33 (0)6 60 62 61 90.

Wall fountain at Rothschild Bourgoing Palace, 1891, Vienna.

Two cast iron dolphins, historical ornaments from the Bridge of Porte de France in Grenoble by Gustave Eiffel

Cast iron.

Height : 176 and 150 cm (69’’ 1/4 and 59'' 1/16) ; Width : 47 cm (18’’ 1/2) ; Depth : 66 cm (26’’)

Originating from the erstwhile Bridge of Porte de France in Grenoble (South of France).

Circa 1892.

Historical remains of a now disappeared work by Gustave Eiffel, these two chimeric dolphins in cast iron come from the former Pont de France in Grenoble. The railing of this beautiful iron bridge was then adorned with sixty-eight cast iron dolphins, emblems of the province of Dauphiné which Grenoble was the capital..
Built in 1892, the bridge was destroyed in 1956 to answer to the intensification of road traffic. So, the dolphins were partly melted, and some were saved like the two pieces that we have the pleasure to present here.
Rare historical witnesses of a work of art by Gustave Eiffel, being moreover beautiful sculptures of superb quality, these pieces can from now on be adapted as fountains or adorn a pleasure garden

Bridge of the Porte de France, Grenoble, antique postcard.

Gustave Eiffel, a prodigious engineer

Known throughout the world, the name of Gustave Eiffel is forever associated with the Eiffel Tower, erected in 1889 for the Universal Exhibition of Paris.
Born in Dijon on December 15, 1832, the young Gustave was admitted to the Ecole Centrale in 1852, and studies metallurgy from 1856. It was while he was working for Charles Nepveu that the young engineer carried out his first bridges projects, which allows him at the age of 25 years to take charge of the immense Pont de Bordeaux. As a result of this major success, he realized several bridges in the South-West of France.
Portrait of Gustave Eiffel by Aimé Morot, 1905, private collection.

Prodigy of the mid-19th century, Eiffel starts his own business in Levallois-Perret, a workshop that conceives all the parts destined to be assembled on the sites. Between 1870 and 1880, the whole world appealed to G. Eiffel et Cie, notably for the framework of the Statue of Liberty in New York (1882), the Pest Train Station in Hungary, but also in Java, Bolivia or Algeria. His career culminated in 1889 with the realization of the highest monument of the time, the Eiffel Tower.

The bridge of Grenoble and its dolphins is therefore one of its first constructions realized after the Eiffel Tower, in 1892. Although Gustave Eiffel is better known for the Iron Lady, the dolphins of the bridge of Grenoble are therefore very representative of his career.

Two rare ornaments of the Porte de France Bridge in Grenoble (1892)
The bridge of the Porte de France, Grenoble, postcard, circa 1914.
The city of Grenoble widened considerably in the 19th century, from 10,000 to 74,000 inhabitants. Around 1880, the city wall was enlarged, which required the construction of a bridge over the Isère River.
Around 1890, after the success of the Eiffel Tower, the city of Grenoble appealed to the great engineer for its bridge, and work began in 1892. Holding on two piers in the Isère River, the bridge of the Porte de France, also called Esplanade bridge or Bastille bridge, has three spans and the railing is adorned with cast iron dolphins.
Becoming too narrow in the twentieth century for traffic needs, the bridge was destroyed in 1956, and replaced by a construction of Pelnard-Considere and Co. The 68 dolphins of the Eiffel bridge were partly melted, but some were preserved by the towns of the region and by private individuals.
Current bridge of the Porte de France in Grenoble, built in 1956.

Indeed, one of these dolphins is now in Tullins, a small town near Grenoble, that made a public fountain of it about 1960, called "Paradise Fountain". Two dolphins also adorn the town hall of Colombe, another town of Isère, and two others adorn the entrance of the Paraboot shoe factory in Sceaux. The founder of the factory was indeed from the region and wanted to celebrate his native origins.

Paradise Fountain, Tullins, Isère.
Paraboot Factory, Sceaux, Ile de France.

Some private people have also saved these dolphins, so that they periodically resurface on the art market. The two we are presenting today were saved by a former municipal employee of Grenoble, at the time of the destruction of the bridge that was the pride of the city. Remaining in the family since then, it is the first time that they reappear since the dismantling of the bridge.

The dolphins, symbols of the Dauphiné Province

Coat of arms of the Dauphiné region, carved on the Palace of the Dauphiné Parliament, Grenoble.

Preciousely preserved in the region, these dolphins are indeed the symbol of the Dauphiné Province, of which Grenoble was the capital, and have been represented on the coat of arms since the 12th century. It was then an independent state, the Dauphiné of Viennois, under the authority of the counts of Albon who call themselves the Dauphins of Viennois, “dauphin” being the French for dolphin. Hence the title of “Dauphin of France” for the heir to the crown, for since the annexation of Dauphiné in 1349, this province is the prerogative of the crown prince.

The Eiffel dolphins have the chimerical form of Neptune's dolphins, as they have been represented since antiquity, as evidenced by the mosaics of Ostia, the ancient port of Rome.
The artists of the Renaissance drew on these ancient representations, so that the mythological dolphin marked the spirits in extraordinary works, such as the Triton Fountain that Gian Lorenzo Bernini sculpted for Pope Urban VIII in 1643.
A drawing of Jean Le Pautre fixes the features we find in these cast dolphins: the body covered with scales, the eyes surrounded by concentric volutes, a dorsal fin and two fins on each side of the head.
Mosaics of Ostia antique harbor, Roma.
Bernini, Triton Fountain, Piazza Bernini, 1643, Roma.
Jean Le Pautre, Putti playing with dolphins, 1673,
Château de Versailles.
Dolphins and putti of the Lavalette Fountain, 1884,
place Grenette, Grenoble.

Thus, the chimeric dolphins already decorate the city of Grenoble in 1825, with the Lavalette Fountain cast by Crozatier. Eiffel prefers a more harmonious shape for his bridge of 1892, enabling to soften the angles of the railing with the beam. Repeated all along the bridge, these dolphins were discreet from afar while offering a pleasant decoration closer.

The pair of dolphins we present is therefore of historical importance, being a rare vestige of a destroyed work of Gustave Eiffel. Authentic ornaments of the guardrail of the former bridge of Grenoble, with the exceptional quality peculiar to a public purchase, they bear the memory of the incredible progresses, in particular technological, which were realized thanks to the company G. Eiffel and Co. .