After a design by Jean Le Pautre (French, Paris 1618–1682 Paris)
158 x 98 in. (401.3 x 248.9 cm.)
Gift of The Hearst Foundation, 1956
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 531
This monumental chimneypiece with its high opening and elaborately carved hood bears analogies to the work of the designer and engraver Jean Le Pautre (1618–1682). A prolific and versatile artist who worked for the Crown, Le Pautre created many designs in a bold sculptural manner, their subjects ranging from architectural elements such as ceilings and friezes to garden vases and trophies. Through his engraved work, he is credited with the dissemination of the Louis XIV style. One plate from his series entitled Cheminées à la Romaine (see 33.84(1)) shows the basic design for the Museum’s chimneypiece, which originated at the Château du Chay in Chérac, in the department of Charente-Maritime, on the French west coast. Closely related to Le Pautre’s engraving are the youthful satyr figures above the hearth opening and the seated boys with olive branches who flank the central medallion. The identity of the helmeted young man in the medallion has not yet been established. Could he have been a member of the De Ferray du Chay family, who owned the castle during the seventeenth century, or is the image merely a classicizing bust? It has been suggested that the features bear a certain resemblance to those of the young Louis XIV — which would explain the crown-bearing putto flying above.
Whatever the case may be, this chimneypiece, probably executed by a local master, illustrates beautifully how Le Pautre’s designs served as a source of inspiration for artists working far away from the French court.
[Daniëlle Kisluk-Grosheide, 2010]
William Randolph Hearst (until 1941; sale, Saks Fifth Avenue in cooperation with Gimbel Brothers under the direction of Hammer Gallery, New York, 1941, no. 485-1)