The J. Paul Getty Museum


Object Details




Unknown maker, French




about 1703–1725


Cast iron

Object Number:



80 × 96 cm, 131.5431 kg (31 1/2 × 37 13/16 in., 290 lb.)

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Object Description

Since the mid-1500s, thick iron plaques known as fire backs lined fireplaces in many homes to protect chimney masonry and to reflect a fire's heat into the room. This fire back displays the coat of arms of Louis-Alexandre de Bourbon, comte de Toulouse, a legitimized son of Louis XIV. The elaborate heraldry reflects both the comte de Toulouse's birth and his achievements. The shield at the center shows the fleur-de-lis of France and is surmounted by the open crown of the fils de France (sons of the king). The comte de Toulouse was a revered military leader, and the anchor below the shield refers to his naval rank of admiral. Symbols of three orders of chivalry surround the shield, which is supported by a striking pair of wings.

Fire backs were often decorated with biblical, historical, or mythological scenes or coats of arms. This large, rectangular fire back weighs nearly three hundred pounds and would have radiated heat well into the night. The comte de Toulouse had several homes, and the fire back probably graced the fireplace of a lavishly decorated formal room. He also commissioned a set of the Beauvais tapestry series entitled The Story of the Emperor of China,which includes his coat of arms in the borders. Seven tapestries from this set are in the Getty's collection.

Louis XIV at the Getty (June 9, 2015 to July 31, 2016)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), June 9, 2015 to July 31, 2016