The C couronné poinçon was a tax mark used in France between March 1745 and February 1749 on any alloy containing copper.
These magnificent chenets epitomize the playful spirit of the rococo style of the 1740s. Boldly sculptural, they are conceived in the form of prancing sea-horses, or chevaux marins, with watery webbed feet, borne aloft in a fantastical manner by cresting waves which seem to defy gravity and which are encrusted with sea shells. Such sea-horses are associated with Triton, the fish-tailed son of Poseidon and Amphitrite, who is often depicted astride a similar mythical marine beast.
Their design derives from a drawing attributed to Lambert Sigisbert Adam for a chenet with Triton astride a sea horse (illustrated in P. Fuhring, Design Into Art, London 1981, vol. I, fig. 581). A pair of chenets based directly on this drawing, possibly supplied to the comte de Toulouse, was sold at Christie's, Monaco, 15 December 1996, lot 80.
Similar chenets incorporating 'chevaux marins' are recorded in the 18th century, including an example in the 1747 inventory of the château de Passy described as 'un grand feu de cuivre répresentant un cheval marin appuyé sur des ornements...', while 'un feu de forte proportion orné de chevaux marins, sur base a rinceaux d'ornemens, avec sa garniture' was listed in the Paris apartment of citoyen Cochu Medecin in 1800.
Other examples of this model are in the Kunsthistorische Museum, Vienna, and in the collection of the Dukes of Buccleuch and Queensberry, Boughton House, Northamptonshire, while a further pair is illustrated in S. Faniel ed., Le Dix-Huitième Siècle Français, Collection Connaissance des Arts, Paris, 1956, p. 123, fig. D (then in a private collection, Paris).