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. .

Games of Childhood, Utmost rare fireplace in Statuary marble with putti in high relief

Statuary and Black Marquina marbles.

Height : 132 cm (52”) ; Width : 204 cm (80” 5/16) ; Depth : 45 cm (17” 3/4)

Late 19th century, Italy.

Childhood is the subject of this antique fireplace, entirely carved in high relief in the Statuary marble. Three groups of children illustrate immemorial games: the swing, Blind Man's Bluff and finally Hot Cockles. Playing among vines, these putti have been imagined in the line of Children Bacchanalia representations from Renaissance. These games, which were already played in Antiquity, the nakedness of bodies, and finally the theme of childhood, immerse us into a vision of the golden age, a mythical time still spared from toil and corruption.
The structure of our fireplace, abandoning the styles of the 18th century, has an organic appearance, reminiscent of Nature. An extremely rare and original piece, this fireplace comes from the area of Genoa, in Italy and was realized in the late 19th century.

A Children Bacchanalia

François Du Quesnoy, Bacchanalia of putti, 1630, Galleria Spadia, Rome, Italy.

These putti playing in vines remind us unequivocally of the Bacchanalia of putti iconography which developed as early as the 16th century. Instead of the procession of Satyrs and Maenads, Renaissance artists like Titian represent toddlers, among vine branches, playing with goats and drinking wine. In sculpture, François Du Quesnoy has established himself as an inescapable reference of these Bacchanalia of putti in low-relief, very admired by the Italians who called him "il fattore di putti".
Many Parisian buildings facades from the 18th and 19th centuries are decorated with these scenes directly inspired by Du Quesnoy. Putti are usually represented in these moments of joy and effervescence, which slowly get rid the attributes of Bacchus. Thus, the putti of our fireplace, in the middle of the heavy clusters of grapes, are clearly inspired by this iconography. Instead of goats and cups of wine, the children play ancestral games that evoke the golden age of humanity.

Immemorial games
Bacchanalia of putti in low-relief, 37 avenue du Président Franklin Roosevelt,
Guy Flavien Place, Sceaux, Hauts de Seine.

The three represented games are indeed reputed to go back to the most remote times. The swing, represented on the right by a simple rope, was already part of the cult of Bacchus' feasts, the god of drunkenness and mysteries.

On the left, three children play Blind Man's Bluff, which is also traceable in Antiquity under the name of the "Game of the bronze fly", narrated by Suetonius.

Blind Man’s Bluff, in the Little Book of Love by Pierre Sala, circa 1500, British Library, London, United Kingdom.

Finally, Hot Cockles is represented on the fireplace's frieze. Very well known from the 17th to the 19th century, it was also reputed to date back to the oldest times. Jacques Stella, an engraver of the 17th century, illustrates this with naked children in his book Plays and Pleasures of Childhood, 1657. The game consists in striking in turns the hand of a player, who keeps it in his back, and must guess who hit him. A guard is responsible for checking that he does not cheat, holding the player's head between his knees.

The « Frappe Main » (Hot Cockles), plate from Plays and Pleasures of Childhood by Jacques Stella, 1657.
Heim, The « Frappe Main », painting in the Salon des Jeux at the Hotel de Lassay, Assemblée Nationale, Paris, France.

An extraordinary fireplace

This extraordinary fireplace, covered with sculptures which form a real ode to vitality, also has a very singular form. Indeed, before the end of the century, decorators respect the repertoire of past styles which allows to structure a fireplace with jambs in the form of consoles or pilasters, on which one can add sculptures.
Thus, it is very rare to see a form so organic, as modeled, for a work carved in Statuary marble. Here, the opening of the fireplace is delimited by ivy. Two feet of vines rise on each of the jambs, carved with special attention to the bark, the shapes of the leaves and the curls of the vines.

Bunches of grapes sculpted in high relief, the leaves overlapping, give the impression of being tender and supple, thanks to the skill of the sculptor.
This work, most likely carried out according to the wishes of a private sponsor, is thus the work of a talented artist. Statuary marble, which befits precious sculptures, makes this fireplace an exceptional piece. The noble materials of statuary art and the ancient iconography are used to realize a modern and unique work.

Exceptional set of Val d’Osne cast iron statues forming fountain coming from the Chateau du Pian near Bordeaux

Cast iron. After a model by Mathurin Moreau.

The couple of Acis and Galatea was presented at the World’s Fair of 1855 by Mathurin Moreau
on a fountain realized in collaboration with Michel Joseph Napoléon Liénard.

Dimensions of the original fountain : Height : 370 cm (145'' 11/16) ; Length : 1095 cm (431'') ; Width : 627 cm (246'' 7/8).

Signature on bases : « Val d'Osne Paris ».

Circa 1870 - 1880.

This fountain of exceptional quality includes a set of iron cast sculptures realized in the late 19th by the famous Val d'Osne foundry. Designed by the great sculptor Mathurin Moreau in 1854, the group of the two large back to back statues represents Acis and Galatea and is illustrated in the album nr. 2 of the Val d'Osne foundry under the numbers 272 and 273.

Fountain of Acis and Galatea designed by Mathurin Moreau for the Val d’Osne foundry, album nr. 2, models 272 and 273.

The story of Acis and Galatea, narrated by Ovid, is here cleverly chosen by Mathurin Moreau as the subject of a fountain because Galatea, a beautiful nymph desired by the Cyclops Polyphemus, transforms her beloved Acis into a river so that he rejoins the sea and does not totally die of the wounds inflicted on him by the Cyclops. This is why Galatea designates with her gesture the water that flows from the lion's head.
This one, as well as the two sirens, are also present in the album n° 2 of the Val d'Osne, while the vases appear in the 1888 album.
The sirens were designed by Provin Serres, a sculptor and disciple of Mathurin Moreau.

Coming from the Chateau du Pian, in Bouliac near Bordeaux (South of France), this fountain could be installed at the same time as the architecture of the house was completely transformed in 1873. The feudal residence had indeed been destroyed, and a Bordeaux wine merchant, Henri Deffès, bought it in 1866 and then entrusted the works of renovation to an architect of the public monuments, Victor Pierre Mialhe. The architect designed the elegant Chateau du Pian in the style of the second half of the 19th century, a period of great influence for the Val d'Osne foundry. Henri Deffès lived in Bordeaux when the city triumphed over the arrival of spring water with the fountain of Mathurin Moreau in 1857 ; We can therefore attribute to him the commission of this work intended to illustrate the extreme refinement of the domain.
The property belonged at the latest in 1897 to a rich farmer, Ferdinand Petit, owner of several vineyards and worldly friend of the President of the American Chamber of Commerce, who came to the Chateau in 1918.

The Chateau du Pian in Bouliac near Bordeaux.

Original settng of the Fountain at the Chateau du Pian before 1993.

The couple of Acis and Galatea was presented at the World's Fair of 1855, for a fountain designed in collaboration with Michel Liénard where this group was leaned in cross with another couple, Neptune and Amphitrite. This model of a monumental fountain made a strong impression on the World's Fair jury, which awarded it a gold medal, and several copies immediately found purchasers as public monuments. In 1857, the city of Bordeaux inaugurated this fountain celebrating the arrival of fresh water in the city center. This one, called "Fontaine de Tourny" now takes place in Quebec City, Canada.

« Fontaine de Tourny » installed on the Parliament Place in Quebec. Originating from Bordeaux.

The viceroy of Egypt Said Pasha also acquires it for Cairo during the World's Fair of 1855, while Tasmania installs a similar one in his Park of the Prince. In 1863, the same is installed in Geneva in the English Garden, then another copy is bought in 1867 for Boston. Only twenty of these fountains exist all over the world.

At the Chateau du Pian, the sculptures were rearranged into a new composition, lighter and more adapted to an exceptional private residence, in order to create a superb fountain taking place in the park of the chateau.

Signature of the Val d'Osne foundry on the cast iron sculptures.

All the cast iron statues are shown in our showroom in Saint-Ouen, on appointment. You can call us : +33 (0)6 60 62 61 90

Cast iron statues only are available. A precise schema of the stone elements was made and a quotation is available for the realization of all the stone elements, which can be carved in our workshops.

« Hunting dogs », a monumental cast iron sculpture by Camille Gaté

Cast iron

Plaster cast exhibited at the 1885 Salon des Artistes Français.

Bronze cast displayed at the 1886 Salon des Artistes Français.

Cast iron displayed at the 1889 World’s Fair, bronze medal.

Dimensions of the statue : H : 134 cm / 52" 3/4 ; W : 238 cm / 93" 3/4 ; D. 121 cm / 47" 5/8

Signed on the pedestal : « C. Gaté ».

After 1885.

Awarded a bronze medal at the 1889 World’s Fair, these Hunting dogs are the well-known work of a late 19th century artist, Camille Gaté.
This sculpture deeply left its mark on the writer Emile Hizelin, a friend of the sculptor’s who acquired a reduction mentioned in his short stories, and who also wrote a poem about it, published in A whole soul, ancient and new verses (1892):

“The two hunting dogs are tied in undergrowth.
One, on the damp earth, gives in to dreams,
The other is standing, watching, and suddenly he shudders
There he listens to some vague barking.
It's hunting! The hunt with its furious voices
The trembling horses fly, the horn sounds,
And all follow a pale and superb Amazon
On a golden whip clenching her fair fingers.
The hunt runs off like a gust.
In the eyes of the two dogs passed, triumphant,
The clear vision of the new kills,
They thought they saw the beast already torn,
And in the evening, in the courtyard, under red torches
The thousand teeth orgy of the hot spoils.”

Sketch after Hunting dogs, in "Notes on Camille Gaté", by Emile Hinzelin, in  Livre d'or de Rémy Belleau, 1900.

As the title suggests, these two idle bloodhounds will be called to relay other dogs to continue the hunt. Presumably, they are two Grands Bleus de Gascogne, hunting dogs from the South of France, employed in the royal packs since Henri IV for hunting wolves or game. It is a breed appreciated for its serene vivacity, its fine muscles which give it a certain nobility.

Hunting dogs, far larger than life, not only magnify a breed appreciated by the artist, but evoke the noble art of hunting, and the imaginary that is attached to it. Indeed, the year the artist dedicates himself to this sculpture, he also publishes a collection of fairy tales, attesting to his sensitivity turned towards the universe of the forest. It is the work of an artist deeply attached to his hometown, in the midst of the forests of La Perche, Nogent-le-Rotrou. The town with its picturesque medieval past, still dominated by the Chateau Saint-Jean, was undoubtedly a hotspot for hunting.

Edition of the Hunting dogs, at the Chateau Saint-Jean of Nogent-le-Rotrou, ancient postcard.

Camille Gaté, born in a family of modest tanners in 1856, participates in the family business without giving up his dreams.
In 1884, he began to sculpt realistic works, with portraits of the tannery workers, The Petit Maître and Woker Woman, two terracotta now preserved in the castle of Nogent-le-Rotrou, and quickly, animal subjects whith which he meets success. The rapidity of his success is striking, and one must attribute it to an exceptional artistic talent, suddenly revealed in a young man who was not destined for art.

Hunting dogs is one of his first sculptures, the plaster of which obtained an immediate success by being received at the Salon des Artistes Français of 1885. The success of the sculpture is confirmed the following year, where a bronze copy is showed again at the Salon. After this first success, he produced several other carved groups of dogs, which earned him, in 1888, the status of Officer of the Academy. It was in 1889, finally, that a  iron cast of Hunting dogs, the work that launched his career, brought him luck again and triumphed at the Paris World’s Fair.
Camille Gaté remains famous in his hometown, which dedicated an exhibition to him in 2016, but is also known for his statue of the poet Rémy Belleau, destroyed by the Germans during World War II. His works from 1889 to his death reveal a philosophical ambition, an optimistic vision for the human race, attached to both sensibility and reason. Thus, in 1889, he produced the Triumph of Philosophical Thought, a high relief in plaster, and two years before his death, a marble work poetically entitled Humanity in front of the infinite.

Camille Gaté in his workshop.

The success at the 1889 World’s Fair, which was the centenary of the French Revolution and the installation of the famous Eiffel Tower, says a lot about the merit of this sculpture.
The work is present in two places of Nogent-le-Rotrou, the Place de la République, and the garden of the Chateau Saint-Jean. The copy of the garden, however, is mounted on a different base. In Joinville-le-Vallage, a beautiful cast by Durenne and the Val d'Osne, dated 1953, was installed in the municipal park.
It is present throughout the world, notably in Argentina, in Mar del Plata in the province of Buenos Aires.

Plaza San Martin, Mar del Plata, Argentine.

Park in Joinville-le-Vallage.

Catalog of the sculptures, 1889 World’s Fair in Paris.