The hydraulic pump constructed on one of the piers of the Pont-Neuf was among the mechanical miracles of early seventeenth-century Paris. It supplied water from the river Seine to the fountains of the Louvre and Tuileries palaces. Between 1712 and 1719 the pump house was rebuilt by the well-known architect Robert de Cotte (1656–1735). Fitted with a carillon on its steep roof, the facade was adorned with a large clock and a sculptural group in lead representing Jesus and the Samarian woman at Jacob’s Well. This group gave the new building its name: La Samaritaine.
In 1772 Charles-Philippe, comte d’Artois (1757–1836), ordered two maquettes of La Samaritaine, each with a removable roof, a clock on one side, a barometer on the other, and various luxury objects inside, such as a gold cadinet or casket to contain a set of cutlery and spices. Some thirty artists collaborated on this extraordinary commission, including the sculptor Louis-Simon Boizot (1743–1809), the clockmaker Robert Robin (1741–1799), and the bronze workers André Ravrio and Luc-Philippe Thomire, under the supervision of Pasquier, the mécanicien (engineer) to the comte d’Artois. One of these models was presented by the count to his sister-in-law, Marie-Antoinette, with whom he shared a close friendship. The other was for his brideto-be, Marie-Thérèse of Savoy.
The Museum’s stand, which has the crowned initials MT of the comtesse d’Artois, was executed by the little-known sculptor Jean-Baptiste Vinceneux for the model of La Samaritaine that belonged to her. Richly carved with oak, laurel, and myrtle branches, as well as with garlands of flowers, the stand displays a coat of arms on the back that has not yet been positively identified. A three-dimensional composition consisting of a classical urn, billing doves, a flaming torch, and a quiver of arrows adorns the cross-stretcher that connects the four slender legs. Symbolizing love and marital felicity, this group undoubtedly refers to the nuptials of the comte and comtesse d’Artois, which took place in November 1773, the same year the support was made; the marriage, however, proved an unhappy one as the young husband continued to lead a licentious life. Pierced guilloche moldings running along the sides of the stand allude to the fact that the models of La Samaritaine were intended to exude perfume. Placed on a later stand, one of the maquettes is in the collection of the Musée Carnavalet, Paris.
Marking: Monogram: MT surmounted by crown [Marie-Thérèse de Savoie, comtesse d'Artois]
Marie-Thérèse de Savoie, Comtesse d'Artois ; Mr. and Mrs. Charles Wrightsman , New York (until 1983; to MMA)
Artist: Georges Jacob (French, 1739–1814)Date: ca. 1782–83Medium: Carved, painted and gilded walnut, pine, and linden; iron hardware; silk and wool Beauvais tapestry; modern silk damaskAccession: 23.235aOn view in:Gallery 523