Objets d’art

Objets d’art

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The clock was often the most precious object in an interior due to the complexity and sophistication of its mechanism. Given pride of place on the mantelpiece, it was the central element of the fireplace’s decoration. At the very end of the 18th century, themes for the decoration of clocks were often found in Greek and Roman history, and the subject here, Juno, daughter of Saturn, god of Time (Chronos in Greek), could not be more fitting. Legend has it that the goddess intervened with Janus, a god associated with the notion of beginning, after whom the first month of the year, January, was named. There are a variety of these so-called “chariot” clocks: Phaeton’s chariot, the chariot of victory, the chariot of the seasons, etc.

Pendule Junon sur son char tiré par des paons
Louis-Michel Harel, maître horloger
Paris, vers 1800
Bronze ciselé et doré, cadran en émail, socle en marbre vert antique
Achat, 1919
Inv. 21412
© Photo MAD, Paris / Jean Tholance


Firedogs are always placed in the fireplace in pairs, and their size is proportionate to that of the hearth. They are composed of the parallel bars on which the logs are placed, supported by the decorative front or “head.”

Paire de chenets à recouvrement
Attribuée à Jean-Baptiste ou Ange-Philippe Blerzy
Paris, vers 1780
Bronze fondu ciselé, doré et émaillé
Dépôt musée du Louvre, 1901
Inv. LOUVRE OA 5266 A-B
© Photo MAD, Paris / Jean Tholance


The pineapple, an American fruit, first came to Europe in the 16th century, but due to its fragility it was eaten only by royalty. Greatly appreciated by Louis XV, it was grown in hothouses at Versailles. A symbol of luxury, the pineapple was also used to decorate the table at ceremonial dinners.

Paire de vases de garniture
Paris, vers 1780-1790
Bronze doré, tôle peinte
Legs Margaret Blake-Gould, 1933
Inv. 31210 A et B
© Photo MAD, Paris / Jean Tholance

Red porphyry is the stone most emblematic of late Antiquity. The most widely used porphyry came from the quarries at Mons Porphyri, in the Egyptian desert between the Nile and the Red Sea. The geometric forms of these vases evoke the huge vats and basins brought from Egypt and the Near East to decorate the palaces and squares of ancient Rome.
The revival in interest in Antiquity encouraged the production of objects inspired by hardstone vases. The wealthiest collectors embellished them with gilt bronze mounts emphasising their forms.

Paire de vases Médicis
Paris, vers 1770-1780
Porphyre, bronze doré
Inv. PR 2009.2.7.1-2
© Photo MAD, Paris / Jean Tholance


This statue of Diana, goddess of the hunt, is a smaller-scale bronze replica of the famous Diana the Huntress sculpted in marble by Jean-Antoine Houdon for the Duke of Saxe-Gotha in 1780. The original, created for the gardens of Freidenstein Castle in Germany, is slightly different: due to marble’s fragility, the goddess’s lower leg is consolidated by a tuft of reeds. The bronze version does away with this support, rendering the fleeting goddess’s pose, momentarily poised on one foot, even more remarkable. The sculpture’s linear grace and anatomical naturalism are an example of Houdon’s brilliant interpretation of antique art and the sense of movement and sensuality pervading all his works.

Diane chasseresse
D’après Jean-Antoine Houdon (1741-1828)
Paris, vers 1800
Bronze patiné, socle en marbre jaune de Sienne
Legs Max Beulé, 1918
Inv. 20897
© Photo MAD, Paris / Jean Tholance