On 9 April 1755, the marchand-mercier Lazare Duvaux delivered to Madame la marquise de Pompadour:
une grille de cheminée pour les bains composée d'un cygne dans des roseaux en bronze doré d'or moulu, modèle fait exprès avec des poupées, 550 l.
These were probably intended for her Parisian home, the hôtel d'Evreux where the bathroom had just been remodelled. According to the duc de Luynes, she had fait changer le petit appartement de monsieur le comte d'Evreux et l'a fait augmenter d'une antichambre, d'une salle à manger, d'un cabinet de toilette et de plusieurs garde-robes.
The inventory drawn up in 1764-65 following the death of Madame de Pompadour lists the following items in the bathroom:
189 - une beignoire de cuivre peinte, prisée 40 livres...
190 - deux chaises et deux tabourets garnis de crin, couverts de toile de cotton brodé en chenet, avec leur housses de toille à carreaux. Les deux grands rideaux formant le baldaquin au-dessus de ladite baignoire, de pareille toille de cotton et broderie.
Nevertheless in the bedroom was:
192 - deux chenets, pelle, pincettes et tenailles de fer poly avec ornements de cuivre doré d'or moulu, deux soufflets, un garde-feu de quatre feuilles de fer blanc et deux petites encoignures de cuivre, prisés 120 livres...
193 - une ottomane à châssis de bois doré [...] couvert de perse fond rouge, lizeré en or, un fauteuil, deux chaises et un tabouret foncé de canne [...], un écran aussi en bois doré avec sa feuille de même étoffe [...], un lit à deux chevets à bois doré [...] la carte pointe et les deux bonnes grâces de perse fond rouge, lizeré en or et les grands rideaux en gourgouran cramoisy...
In addition, there were four overdoors with painted canvases representing various subjects and several mirrors placed at the end of the alcove, above the ottoman and on the four panelled doors.
Following the death of the marquise in 1764, the chenets were sold like the majority of her furniture. These sales, which started from the 19th November 1764, took place in the hôtel Pompadour and lasted eight months, although no catalogue was produced. The chenets were not mentioned in the inventory or the 1781 sale following the death of the marquise's brother, who had become marquis de Ménars.
An inventory carried out in 1796 of the collection of the premier valet de chambre of Louis XV and later of Louis XVI explains their fate after the death of the marquise de Pompadour.
Un feu orné de cuivre doré d'or moulu représentant deux cygnes 900 francs was listed in Madame Lorimier de Chamilly's appartement. Madame Lorimier de Chamilly had been one of the marquise's ladies-in-waiting and it is more than likely that she either received the chenets as a keepsake or purchased them in a sale following the marquise's death.
Claude-Christophe Lorimier de Chamilly, son of Antoine Charles Lorimier, intendant et contrôleur des écuries et livrées du roi and related to the Pernon family, married in 1756 Mlle. Marsollier, who brought a dowry in excess of 170,000 livres. He assumed his father's position and became premier valet de chambre to Louis XV in 1764. Lodged by the King in the Grande Ecurie, he lived in the rue Montblanc (now Chaussée d'Antin) in Paris and these chenets were placed in his fashionably decorated salon: un feu orné de cuivre doré d'or moulu représentant deux cygnes 900 francs. He was arrested and then guillotined on 23 June 1794.
The modest price of the chenets, when compared with those of a pair of putto candelabra (5000 francs) and that of a set of four consoles en gaine (3000 francs), is entirely consistent for a pair of chenets made some forty years earlier. The fact that they were considered worthy to be placed in the Grand Salon among fashionable modern furniture implies that their owner accorded them great importance, and this was presumably because he knew their provenance.
The choice of subject recalls Madame de Pompadour's particular taste for birds. In addition, the swan is one of Venus' attributes and Apollo assumed the guise of a swan to seduce Leda.
The species of swan found in Europe and in Asia (Cygnus olor) was first modelled by Johann-Joachim Käendler, assisted by Peter Reinicke at Meissen in November 1747. According to Ludwig Schnorr, it was not produced before the summer of 1748 and shortly thereafter it was imported by the French marchands-merciers (R. Rückert, Meissner Porzellan, 1710-1810, Munich, 1966, nos. 1117-1118).
Lazare Duvaux would certainly have turned to a sculpteur or modeleur for this project. Whilst he is known to have used a number of bronziers such as Leroy, Paffe, Gallien, Buron, Vassout, Dughé and Osmond, the marquise de Pompadour favoured Jacques Caffiéri. The latter's inventories do not, however, make any mention of swan chenets. Two other pairs of Louis XV bronze swans are known.
The first pair, in ormolu, of a slightly different model (32.5 cm. high; 27.5 cm. wide) was sold from the collection of the Marquess of Cholmondeley, Works of Art from Houghton, sold Christie's London, 8 December 1994, lot 16 (£408,500).
The second pair, in patinated bronze, (29 cm. high; 32 cm. wide) was illustrated by Bernard Steinitz, in his Catalogue, Paris, 1998, pp. 61-64 with accompanying note by J. D. Augarde and J. N. Ronfort.
The above two pairs have no holes to the backs for fixing iron supports unlike the offered pair, which would indicate that they were always intended as sculptures rather than chenets.
THE HÔTEL D'EVREUX
The hôtel d'Evreux was built between 1718 and 1720 by the architect Armand-Claude Mollet for Henri-Louis de la Tour d'Auvergne, comte d'Evreux. Purchased by Madame de Pompadour in December 1753, she commissioned her architect Jean Lassurance and later Ange-Jacques Gabriel to carry out improvements. In particular, the bathroom was improved by the addition of an antichambre created by closing a passage which connected the garden with the stableyard. As a result, the bathroom assumed an octagonal shape.
In the 18th century, a bathroom comprised not only the actual bathroom where one bathed, but also a bedroom for resting. Madame de Pompadour's bathroom in her lower appartement at Versailles comprised two rooms, one with a heater and the méridienne with a day bed. The appartement was allocated to her in 1749 and inaugurated in 1751, but work was constantly in progress. Lazare Duvaux delivered six small panels en papier tissu des Indes decorated with flowers and birds for the garde-robe.