Jacques Caffieri was one of the most preeminent bronziers during the reign of Louis XV. A sculptor as well as a fondeur-ciseleur, he was the creator of many of models that were later cast in bronze. Philippe Caffieri (1714-74) became his father’s partner in 1747, and like his father, he became very successful as a bronzier working mainly in the Neo-classical style. The present pair of firedogs, while quite typical of Jacques Caffieri’s work, date from the period when he was assisted by his son.
The Caffieris were an Italian dynasty of sculptors and bronziers who worked for the French Royal Court. It was on the request of Cardinal Mazarin that Jacques Caffieri’s father Philippe (1634-1716) travelled from Naples and eventually became “sculpteur du Roi”. The tenth child, Jacques was admitted as a sculptor to the Académie de Saint-Luc; shortly prior to 1715 he became a master fondeur-ciseleur. From that time, and until he died, he resided in the rue des Canettes. As of 1736 he constantly worked for the Crown. Appointed “fondeur-ciseleur des Bâtiments du Roi”, he produced works for the palaces of Fontainebleau, Versailles, Choisy, and Marly, among others. His royal commissions included the large astronomical clock with movement by Dauthiau after designs by C.-S. Passement, which now stands in Versailles, and two large gilt bronze rocaille chandeliers that are today in the Wallace Collection in London. Caffieri made two large gilt bronze mirror frames based on designs by A.-J. Gabriel, which Louis XV gave as presents to the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire. He produced furniture mounts as well, including those for a commode made in 1739 by A.-R. Gaudreau for Louis XV’s bedchamber in Versailles (today in the Wallace Collection), those on a chimneypiece supplied in 1747 to the Dauphin’s apartment in Versailles, and two signed figures probably made to be mounted on a cabinet for a noble German client. An excellent portrait sculptor as well, Jacques Caffieri created the busts of the baron de Besenval and his son, and the baron de Brunstadt. Caffieri’s work may be seen today in important collections around the world, including the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, the Residenzmuseum in Munich and Cleveland, Ohio Museum of Art.