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Style Louis XIV / Ref.14900

Fireback with the coat of arms of France, with a head of Apollo and the skin of a lion

Width: 41''   104cm
Height: 43'' ¾  111cm
Depth: 2''   5cm

End of the 17th century

Good condition

This fireback bearing the coat of arms of France is richly decorated with Louis-Quatorzian iconography.

The curved top features a head of Apollo surrounded by rays. The god, with whom the Sun King is often associated, is represented on numerous occasions in the iconography of royal decorations, particularly at the Château de Versailles. Further down, two plant elements reinforce the royal iconography: a laurel branch on the left, an imperial symbol since Roman antiquity (and an attribute of Apollo), and an iris or lily flower on the right, a symbol of French royalty since the 14th century. Legend has it that the iris flower was first used as a symbol of the French monarchy as far back as Clovis, and that it became known as the fleur de lys. However, the lily flower was not definitively adopted until the reign of Charles V.

On the lower level, the remains of a lion, a symbol of strength and royalty, hang from two nails. This plaque also features a Herculean and martial iconography: the lion's skin may evoke both Hercules, who, after killing the Nemean lion, covered himself in its remains, and the young king's recent victory over Flanders during the War of Devolution (1667-1668) and the Dutch War (1672-1678). This warlike iconography is echoed in the lower right, with the presence of a drum, and on either side of the plaque, with the ends of the flagpoles recalling those taken from the enemy. In the centre of the plaque, the arms of France (azure with three golden fleurs-de-lis) are surmounted by the Royal Crown. They are surrounded by the collars of the King's Orders: the Order of Saint Michael is recognisable by the scallops that dot it and its oval medallion in which Saint Michael is depicted slaying the dragon; the cross of the Order of the Holy Spirit, on which a dove can be seen, is depicted below. The arms themselves are surrounded by trophies of arms and lily flowers.

An identical fireback in the Château de Versailles is referenced in Henri Carpentier, Plaques de cheminée, tome premier, Paris, F. de Nobele, 1967, p. 201, no. 532.

A similar motif can also be found on a wooden plaque dating from the late 17th or early 18th century in the Musée Lorrain in Nancy, documented in Philippe Palasi, Plaques de cheminées héraldiques, Paris, Editions Gourcuff-Gradenigo, 2014, p. 54, B.

Henri Carpentier's book locates a plaque identical to ours at the Château de Versailles. The quality of the cast iron and the royal and martial iconography of the plaque indicate that it was probably made for the Château de Versailles just after the first military successes of Louis XIV's reign, at the end of the 17th century.

Price: on request

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