Drawing, Design for Two Andirons and Sconce of Gilt Bronze, 1777–90
Pen and black ink, brush and watercolor on paper, lined, framed with brown paper and pen and black ink lines. Purchased for the Museum by the Advisory Council. 1921-6-61
What is this?
Designs for metal pieces. Upper center, a sconce with a young boy with fire on his head standing among six branches, three on each side, with candles at the tips. Lower left, an andiron with adorsed sphinxes crouching on either side of an urn. Lower right, an andiron with adorsed griffins crouching on either side of a flame-topped altar.
Why is this in our collection?
Two andirons (firedogs) and a wall sconce forms a dazzling triad of neoclassical designs on the surface of this sheet. The drawing has been attributed to Jean Démosthène Dugourc (1749-1825), the French architect who served as a furniture designer to the French crown and later became the first architect to the King of Spain. The andiron on the left is composed of a classical vase flanked by sphinxes with paws feet resting on cannon balls. The andiron on the right shows griffins on either side of a flaming altar. The center sconce displays a young boy with a flame on his head grasping branches that serve as candle holders with laurel leaves by his feet. This highly finished watercolor was likely a presentation drawing for royal patron, perhaps Marie Antoinette as the blue roundels on one of the andirons displays the queen’s initials. The combination of Egyptian, Roman and Classical motifs echo the influence of Giovanni Battista Piranesi’s eccentric decorative vocabulary and are examples of extravagant decorative follies at a contentious moment in French history.