Pair of firedogs (chenets)


On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 525

Multiple examples of this model of firedogs, incorporating the figures of two mythological deities in their design, are known. The crowned male figure could be Pluto, Roman god of the underworld; the female pendant might be his love, Proserpina, traditionally shown with a torch, as the woman is here. In fact, in 1753 the metalworker Antoine Lelièvre supplied a pair of chenets decorated with the rulers of the underworld, albeit of a different model, to Louis XV for use at Versailles. However, Pluto is generally rendered with a scepter, not with a trident as here, the latter usually being an attribute of Neptune. Given the fact that andirons were placed in front of the fireplace to reflect the flames, the choice of Neptune and his spouse, Amphitrite, god and goddess of the sea, would have been an amusing one. Whatever their identities might be, these firedogs with their figures perched on pierced scrolling bases evolving into acanthus leaves are a perfect embodiment of the whimsical Rococo taste.

Pair of firedogs (chenets), Gilt bronze, French

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L: 1986.355.1; R: 1986.355.2