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Pair of Firedogs
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Unknown
French, Paris, about 1700
Gilt bronze

93.DF.49

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Designed to hold logs, firedogs or chenets take their name from the French word for a small dog. Pairs of firedogs were placed inside the fireplace, with their gilt bronze decoration often concealing wrought iron bars that supported the burning wood. These firedogs are unusual as they were not fixed to any metal bars but instead stand before the fire as separate elements of pure decoration. Together with gilt bronze wall lights attached to a mirror frame and a gilt bronze clock on the mantelpiece, the firedogs would have created a glittering display that was the focal point in any elegant salon.

These firedogs support four children posed with attributes of the four elements: the sun for Fire, a cornucopia and globe for Earth, an urn for Water, and a chameleon for Air. The last attribute refers to a quote by the ancient philosopher Pliny, who wrote that the chameleon neither ate nor drank but lived on air. Also included are an eagle symbolizing Jupiter and a peacock representing his consort Juno. A refined and educated patron would have appreciated these scholarly references.