Extraordinary fireplace made out of Alabastro di Busca and gilded bronze,
after the fireplace of the Salon d'Hercule at the Palace of Versailles
coming from the Fenaille Estate at Sévérac-le-Château
Late 19th century
Dimensions: Width 175 cm ; Height 141 cm ; Depth 71 cm (69 x 55.5 x 28 in)
Alabastro di Busca, gilded bronze
Maurice Fenaille (1855-1937)
and the Sévérac-le-Château estate :
Maurice Fenaille amassed a great fortune from the oil company founded by his father, "Fenaille et Despeaux," that he took over in 1883. He made it one of the first companies in the oil industry and then dedicated his life and wealth to collecting artwork and becoming a patron of the arts and a philanthropist. He supported artists such as August Rodin and Jules Chéret, as well as museums, for example by participating in the acquisition of Ingres' Bain Turc by the Louvre in 1911. As of 1908, he devoted his time and money to salvaging and restoring the Château de Montal in the Lot Department.
Maurice Fenaille was very attached to Aveyron, the Department that his wife was from. Hoping to bolster the region's economic development, he founded a school of agriculture, an upholstery workshop, and financed a museum for the Société des lettres, sciences et arts de l'Aveyron (the Aveyron Society of literature, sciences, and arts). Today, this museum is called the "musée Maurice Fenaille," and is situated in the Hôtel de Jouéry in Rodez, a mansion donated by Fenaille to the Society.
At Maurice Fenaille's death, the facility was given to the Department and named the "Fenaille Sanatorium". Today, the "Maurice Fenaille Hospital", renovated and reorganized, has become a medium and long-term care facility and contains 81 bedrooms.
A fireplace inspired by the Salon d'Hercule fireplace at the Château de Versailles :
The Salon d'Hercule replaced the third chapel of the Château that was destroyed in 1710. The salon's decoration was directed by Robert de Cotte from 1712 to 1715. After Louis XIV's death, the work was left unfinished for 14 years, until it was finally finished and then inaugurated in 1739, under Louis XV.
Antoine Vassé was the author of the bronze ornamentation on this impressive fireplace. He decorated the fireplace header with a head of Hercules wearing the Nemean lion's skin, flanked with volutes and garlands coming out of large cornucopias.
The lions heads on the jambs were copied for the fireplace from the Fenaille Sanatorium.
Although it is not as gigantic, the Fenaille Estate fireplace was based on the very similar original Salon d'Hercule fireplace from the Versailles Palace.
The original fireplace from the Salon d'Hercule was a very successful design that was widely copied, strictly and loosely, especially during the 19th century, the era of historicism, when past styles were revisited, like the Louis XIV style was for this fireplace.
By its references to the most famous palace in the world and the great French art of the 18th century, this fireplace from Maurice Fenaille's sanatorium is a magnificent work of art made of expertly sculpted Alabastro di Busca and gilded bronze. It is a work of art that epitomizes the historicism and eclecticism of the 19th century.
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