This andiron is one of pair of French Neoclassical, early 19th-century gilded, patinated, and polychromed bronze andirons (chenets) (see HC.F.1933.054.[FC]). It has an elongated, elliptical lozenge-shaped plinth supported on two feet designed as rockeries. The plinth is decorated in relief on one side with a basket of grapes, from which protrude two scythes and behind which lie three thyrsus staves, each with fluttering ribbons (taeniae) and undulating grape vines. On top of the plinth is a sculptural representation of an infant satyr seated against a gnarled tree stump with a grape vine wreath on his head. He likely once held something in his hand, probably a flute, which is now lost. Beside him are a thyrsus staff and an overturned footed bowl, from which spills a branch of grapes and leaves. From behind the bowl, a grape vine hangs over the side of the plinth. All of these individual elements on top of the plinth were cast separately.
The representations on these two andirons suggest both an autumnal harvest of grapes and grain and a Bacchanalia. In ancient mythology, satyrs were part of the god Bacchus’s entourage, and the thyrsus staff—covered with ivy vines, wound with taeniae, and topped with a pinecone—was carried by Bacchus and his followers. It became fashionable in France in the eighteenth century to represent adults as infants, as is the case with the satyrs. Variants of the Dumbarton Oaks andirons were made in the nineteenth century. For example, similar infant satyrs posed slightly differently and seated on tasseled cushions are found on a late nineteenth-century pair of gilt-bronze chenets sold by Christie’s London on April 16, 2003, sale 9610, lot 190. Although the bases and the feet differ in design, the thyrsus, grape vine, and overturned footed bowl are nearly identical.
Collection of Henry Danby Seymour, Ashbridge, Kent, England.
Collection of Jane Margaret Seymour, Knoyle, Wiltshire (his neice and heir).
[Possibly] Seymour sale, Sotheby's, London, 5/9/1928.
Purchased from French & Co., New York, New York (inv. no. 32165), by Mildred and Robert Woods Bliss, 7/31/1933.
Collection of Mildred and Robert Woods Bliss, Washington, D.C., 7/31/1933-11/29/1940.
Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, House Collection, Washington, D.C.