« 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.

The exceptional monumental fireplace originating from the Chateau of Montgeon attributed to Edmond Lechevallier-Chevignard

Stone

Dimensions : H : 13ft 9” 1/4 ; W : 10ft 2”; D : 38” 1/2.

Originating from the Chateau of Montgeon, Le Havre (France).

Circa 1870.





Bearing an impressive overmantel where a Muse teaches a musician angel to play the viol, this monumental fireplace was installed on the ground floor of the Chateau of Montgeon in Le Havre (France). It was built on the same model as the famous fireplace in the Salon Biencourt at the Chateau of Azay-le-Rideau, known for the beautiful salamander that adorns its overmantel. Both were made in the 19th century and are thus realizations of the Neo-Renaissance style, which allows us to attribute the fireplace that we present to the same artist who designed the fireplace of Azay-le-Rideau.



Central medallion of the fireplace from Montgeon


A Neo-Renaissance fireplace as in Azay-le-Rideau


The "Salon of the Biencourt Marquises" at the Chateau of Azay-le-Rideau, reconstruction of the 19th-century room by the Centre des monuments nationaux and the Mobilier national.


Built in the 16th century, the famous castle apparently floating on water, built on an island in the middle of the Indre River, waited until the 19th century to receive the salamander fireplace. It was indeed installed by the Marquises de Biencourt, who undertake works of aesthetic harmonization, in order to preserve the charm of the Renaissance style. This is why the salamander is shown there, whereas the Chateau of Azay-le-Rideau was never the home of Francis I, who offered the castle to his faithful.


The monumental fireplace of the Marquises de Biencourt’s Room has a large carved stone overmantel, supported by columns with Corinthian capitals. The entablature is carved with a frieze, above which stands a large medallion adorned with the Salamander of Francis I, framed by two Corinthian pilasters. The general structure of this famous national heritage work is the same as the one adopted for the fireplace of the Chateau of Montgeon, and their likeness is striking.

To the left : fireplace in the Salon of the Biencourt Marquises with its painted decor, Azay-le-Rideau, antique postcard. To the right : fireplace in the Chateau of Montgeon, during the castle’s demolition.

Indeed, the design of these two fireplaces is identical in its architecture, from the shape of the cornices to the square moldings framing the medallion. The differences are in the ornamental choices: the capitals of the columns are not the same, nor the motif of the friezes. The paneled pilasters are carved with foliage at Azay-le-Rideau, while they are smooth at Montgeon. Last but not least, the medallion does not represent the same subject. However, these differences come from the adaptation of a Neo-Renaissance fireplace model to two different commissions: the proportions were thus defined according to each of the two rooms, and the ornaments according to the wishes of the commissioner.


It seems hence obvious that the fireplace of Montgeon was realized following the model of Azay-le-Rideau. However, the latter was made by a 19th century decorator, active in several castles and churches in France, and it seems quite probable that the fireplace we are presenting was commissioned to the same artist. We would thus have the honor of presenting a rare work by the Neo-Renaissance style specialist, Edmond Lechevallier-Chevignard.

 

 

Edmond Lechevallier-Chevignard (1825-1902), a 16th century enthusiast

 

 



Edmond Lechevallier-Chevignard, born in Lyon in 1825, trained in painting with the  Troubadour painter Delaroche, and  multiplied his activities: he is an illustrator of the French traditional costumes, author of a book on history of styles, painter, and finally decorator. Passionate about the sixteenth century, he left a number of sketches for stained glass and tapestry, as well as engravings, paintings and interior decorations.

Edmond Lechevallier-Chevignard, The Benedicite, 1859.


In his very first work for the Salon in 1859, he painted in The Benedicite a monumental fireplace that already resembles those he will have the opportunity to realize later.



Indeed, in 1864, George de Montbrison, who shared his passion for the art of the Renaissance, entrusted him with the entire decoration of his home, the Chateau of Saint-Roch.

"Fireplace, ceiling, parquet flooring, woodwork, furniture, everything had to be executed on his drawings and under his unique direction," says Georges Duplessis in La Revue des Arts Décoratifs in 1880. The fireplace of Saint-Roch looks like that he imagined in his painting: with fauns supporting the entablature, and a large medallion framed in a panel that can accommodate a painted decoration.


Finished in 1869, this extraordinary work allowed him to design other interiors, including the Biencourt Salon in Azay-le-Rideau, the fireplace of the Chateau of Chaumont, and the Library of the Duke of Chartres (commissioned in 1875), the Reception room of the town hall of Chateaudun (1881-1891), and the works commissioned by the Duke of Aumale for the Chateau of Chantilly (1877-1893).

Formed as a painter, he ensures the painted decoration of the fireplaces he has being built, which is why in Azay-le-Rideau as at Saint-Roch, he leaves a smooth surface around the medallion, destined to receive his painting.

Fireplace in the Chateau Saint-Roch, period photograph by Edmond Lechevallier-Chevignard, circa 1864.

Edmond Lechevallier-Chevignard became since 1870 a prominent decorator for the owners of aristocratic residences throughout France. This is why our fireplace, whose style perfectly matches the fireplaces of Saint-Roch and Azay-le-Rideau, can be attributed to Edmond Lechevallier-Chevignard. The Chateau of Montgeon is indeed the property of an ancient aristocratic family, like his other commissioners.

 

 

A patrimonial work from the Chateau of Montgeon

 


Raised on the former village of Rouelles, today on the territory of Le Havre, the Chateau of Montgeon is in all likelihood built about 1700 by the family of Georges Le Roux, councilor to the parliament of Rouen and Lord of the Bocage. The Le Roux family had indeed acquired neighboring lands, the fiefdom of the Bouteillerie, in 1531, on which still stands the Manor of the Bouteillerie, one kilometer from the Chateau of Montgeon.


The daughter of Georges Le Roux, Marie-Anne Le Roux of Montgeon (1710-1792), was born in the castle in 1710, and married in 1729 Marie-Hyacinthe de Cavelier, himself a descendant of the very ancient Cavelier family.

The couple lives in the property and founds a family that will reside there until the 20th century. Their grandson, Amedee (1791-1858), bought the forest of Montgeon and enlarged the castle by appending the arms of the Cavelier de Montgeon on the pediment. The fireplace of the Chateau of Montgeon could have been ordered by Firmin de Cavelier de Montgeon (1815-1882), or by his son Albert (1848-1929), the two men having been able to hear of Edmond Lechevallier-Chevignard’s success and wishe to adorn the family castle with one of his beautiful creations.

The Chateau’s pediment with the Cavelier de Montgeon’s coat of arms, azur with three crescents or
The fireplace in situ in the Chateau of Montgeon after the fire that tore down nearly 80% of the original castle.

The castle subsequently became the property of the city of Le Havre in 2001 but was unfortunately the victim of a violent fire that led to its complete destruction in 2009. When this impressive fireplace was to be dismantled, the team of the Marc Maison Gallery enters the ruins of the castle and can only observe the irreversible damage caused by the fire. A few elements were spared by the flames including this fireplace, so that it was possible to save this important patrimonial work.


The surprise was huge when, the team having finally put down the last pieces of the fireplace, charcoal drawings appeared on the wall! The capitals with acanthus leaves, the columns and molded bases of the fireplace were drawn there, which is quite rare and testifies to a real work of sculpture made to measure, a work of a talented sculptor.

The sketches of the fireplace’s capitals and columns on the castle’s walls.

The andirons

Necessary for the good combustion of fire since the early Antiquity, the firedogs, or andirons, are placed under the logs and allow the circulation of the air. It is certainly their role as “guardians” of the fire that earned them the name derived from the word “dog” since the Middle Ages. First made of wood, they are quickly designed in wrought iron.

The decorative heads of andirons, symmetrical and made of copper, developed in the Renaissance and in the 17th century, are often adorned with a ball. However, it was with the gilt bronze of the 18th century that andirons models multiplied, becoming real sculptures: animals and chimeras guarding the hearth, scenes of gallantries or elements of architecture.

The Louis XV and Louis XVI style models have invaded all the Châteaux and Mansions, including the Versailles Palace, and have remained sources of inspiration for the 19th century. The latter will be particularly interested in this medieval object, the rustic iron manufacture of which he also rehabilitated, and that it coated in Neo-Gothic fantasies.

A rare gilt bronze firescreen with espagnolettes signed by François LINKE and BOUHON Frères, circa 1900

Gilt bronze, metallic mesh

Dimensions : H : 27’’ 3/16 ; W : 33’’ 1/16 ; D : 7’’ 7/8.

Signed « F. Linke » and « Bouhon » on the right foot.

Circa 1900.



This large gilt bronze firescreen, inspired from the Regence and Louis XV styles witnesses the collaboration of two great actors of the French late 19th century decorative arts, both celebrated at the 1900 Universal Exhibition, François Linke and the Maison Bouhon Frères.




A collaboration between two great companies at the turn of the 20th century

François Linke (1855-1946) remains nowadays well-known for his pieces of furniture, sometimes surprising, and always of extreme lavishness, where wood and gilt bronze are bringing each other out. He certainly was the most prominent French furniture manufacturer from the late 19th century until the eve of the Second World War, revealed at the 1900 Exposition. A cabinetmaker of Czech origin, Linke arrived in Paris in 1875 and opened a shop on the Faubourg Saint-Antoine in 1881, which was visited by several rulers and personalities from around the world: the King of Sweden, the King of the Belgians, American heiress Anna Gould, Prince Radziwill. His most spectacular command was that of the King of Egypt Fouad I for the Ras el-Tin Palace in Alexandria, whose only equivalent is to be found in the orders of Louis XIV for Versailles.



François Linke at his desk, cover photograph for Christopher Payne, François Linke 1855-1946, The Belle Epoque of French Furniture, Woodbridge, Antique Collectors' Club, 2003.
« Shell » chest of drawers exhibited to the Universal Exhibition of 1900 in Paris and again in Liège in 1905.
Christopher Payne, François Linke 1855-1946, The Belle Epoque of French Furniture, Woodbridge, Antique Collectors' Club, 2003 , p. 144.


A specialist in the Regence and Rococo styles, he worked from 1885 with the sculptor Léon Messagé towards the renewal of these past forms for a modern design. They obtained hence an original style halfway between the Rococo and the Art Nouveau. The skilled sculptor does not usually sign his contributions, very few objects with his signature are known while his collaboration with Linke is proven. It is along with Leon Messagé that a true "Linke style" is shaped, with espagnolettes in particular, of which we have here a good example. These small ornamental women busts, invented by Charles Cressent, characterize the gallant, feminine and intimate spirit of the Regency.



In upstream work for the 1900 Universal Exhibition, both artists redoubled their efforts to design original and technically impressive pieces. François Linke foresees twenty-five pieces for his stand, but will only be able to complete thirteen which form an already impressive exhibition, rewarded with a gold medal. Numerous drawings by Léon Messagé attest to the enthusiastic emulation of the two artists about the exhibition project. The sculptor develops on this occasion a series of specific motifs that enable us to situate our firescreen in the continuity of this fertile period around 1900.


François Linke’s stand at the 1900 Universal Exhibition in Paris.


Léon Messagé notably uses at this time the motif of corn ear coated on a shell, as on the "shell" Chest of drawer sent to the 1900 Universal Exhibition. As Messagé died in 1901, all of his models were acquired by Linke, so that this shell is used again for a table presented to the Exhibition of the industries and furniture of Paris in 1902 and then at the 1905 Universal Exhibition in Liège.

The attributes of love chiseled in the center of the firescreen also recall this intimist vogue. The two lovers doves, the Cupid's quiver, are here covered with finely chiseled foliage and flowers, with a precision also characteristic of Messagé.


Table presented to the Exhibition of the industries and furniture of Paris in 1902 and then at the 1905 Universal Exhibition in Liège.
Christopher Payne, François Linke 1855-1946, The Belle Epoque of French Furniture, Woodbridge, Antique Collectors' Club, 2003, p. 173.

However, the Linke Company doesn't usually make firescreen, and to realize this one, it hence had to call on its colleague from the 1900 Universal Exhibition, specialized in fireplace accessories, the Bouhon Frères Company.

Formerly Maison Clavier, and then Bouhon et Cie until 1898, the Maison Bouhon Frères is by 1900 an already old and reputed company in the field of fireplaces and their accessories in bronze and wrought iron. Their shop is situated in 12, rue Dubelleyme in the Marais district of Paris, and they are called several times to be part of the exhibitions' jury. Bouhon father is notably a not competing member of the jury for the 1889 Universal Exhibition. Thomas and Joseph Bouhon, the two brothers, developed the family company towards the copy of antique works and museum fireplaces, but they also care for their production of new designs.



According to Victor Champier, critic of the Universal Exhibitions:

"The furnishings of fireplaces, andirons, etc., have always provided the bronze industry with the motifs that earned its most striking successes ... At this time it is the Maison Bouhon that maintains with the most constancy and success our old French reputation in this specialty."

Victor Champier, Les Industries d’art à l’Exposition Universelle de 1900, Paris, aux bureaux de la Revue des arts décoratifs, 1902.


Hence, the fireplace accessories designed by Bouhon Frères are noticed at the 1900 Universal Exhibition as they are displaying for the first time with this business name. Victor Champier shows part of it among the thousands of works presented at this exhibition, and they are congratulated by the international jury for these "completely new" firescreens and andirons. It received the gold medal at this fair, just as it had received it at the 1897 Universal Exhibition in Brussels.

Our object signed Linke, where the bronze work is particularly precise and sophisticated, has thus everything of a Leon Messagé model around 1900. Since François Linke was often solicited to furnish entire rooms, such as Elias Meyer's apartment in 1909, Linke may have had to solicit his colleagues for pieces that did not belong to cabinetmaking, such as this firescreen co-signed by Bouhon Frères.

Drawing room entirely furnished by François Linke at Elias Meyer’s in London, 1909.
Christopher Payne, François Linke 1855-1946, The Belle Epoque of French Furniture, Woodbridge, Antique Collectors' Club, 2003, p. 243.


The Turn of the Century : the Universal Exhibition of 1900

In 1900, Paris hosted the Universal Exhibition for the fifth time. The theme was "Le bilan d'un siècle," meaning to celebrate the achievements of the past century and move on to the next. Ten times larger than the first World's Fair hosted by Paris in 1855, it took place from April 15th to November 12th and had nearly 51 million visitors (the population of France being of 41 million at the time). The Grand Palais and Petit Palais were constructed for this Exhibition, and the metro was created.
83,047 exhibitors including 38,253 French participated in this Fair of 1900. Industrial art of the time was widely represented, particularly the bronze art industry, of which this firescreen is a perfect example.
According to Victor Champier, the gilt bronzes exhibited at the 1900 Fair could be divided into two categories: those that were attached to tradition by their form, especially to the styles of the 17th and 18th centuries, and those that, looking to be innovative and modern, took on a fantastical aspect by their "silhouettes excentriques et lignes extravagantes" ("eccentric shapes and extravagant outlines"). It was also at this World Fair that Art Nouveau was truly discovered, acknowledged, and admired.