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Caffiéri, Jacques

Caffiéri, Jacques

Jacques Caffiéri

(b Paris, 25 Aug 1678; d Paris, 23 Nov 1755).
Bronze-caster, sculptor and designer, son of (1) Philippe Caffiéri (i). He was the nephew of Charles Le Brun and had two sons by his marriage to Marie-Anne Rousseau, (3) Philippe Caffiéri (ii) and (4) Jean-Jacques Caffiéri. Jacques became one of the most prominent bronzeworkers in the reign of Louis XV. A member of the Académie de Saint-Luc, Paris, he became a master bronze-caster and chaser in Paris before 1715 and, on an unknown earlier date, received the title of Sculpteur et Ciseleur Ordinaire des Bâtiments du Roi. It is probable that one of his teachers was Domenico Cucci, who was Ebéniste et Fondeur du Roi and with whom the Caffiéri family was closely linked. Jacques also received training in sculpture, as evidenced by his busts of Baron de Besenval (1735) and Baron de Brunstadt (1737). It was in the decorative arts, however, that he achieved his reputation.

In 1740 his wife bought the warrant of Marchande Doreuse Privilégiée du Roi suivant la Cour, which allowed them to continue the processes of bronze-casting and gilding, which would normally have been performed by separate businesses, within the same workshop. In 1747 his son Philippe Caffiéri (ii) joined him as an associate. Jacques had clients in the city of Paris and at court, including the royal family. He also became Maître Sculpteur et Dessinateur des Vaisseaux du Roi. Of his bronzework only small, decorative pieces are extant. He is known to have made gilt-bronze mantelpieces (destr.) for four chimney-pieces commissioned for the château of Versailles in 1747, but only those from the Dauphin's Bedchamber survive. Similarly, the numerous bronze ornaments for coaches, including those commissioned by the court, are lost. Of his work for cabinetmakers, only the bronzes for the commode (1739; London, Wallace; for illustration see COMMODE) by Antoine-Robert Gaudreaus for Louis XV are extant, although those for the desk (Baron Edmond de Rothschild priv. col.) for the Duc de Choiseul have also been attributed to him.

Jacques Caffiéri specialized in the Louis XV style. Animals and fantastic beasts, figures of gods and heroes inspired by Ovid's Metamorphoses and genre subjects, all combined with elaborate curves that are emphasized by leafy, flowered branches, typical of the asymmetrical Louis XV style, feature prominently in his earlier works. Examples with this type of decoration include the Diana and Apollo clocks (Pushkin, Pal.-Mus.; Duke of Buccleuch, priv. col.); the Diana and Endymion cartel-clock (Amsterdam, Rijksmus.); Queen Marie Leczinska's candelabra (Paris, Louvre); wall-lights (Malibu, CA, Getty Mus.) made for the Infanta Elizabeth, Louis XV's daughter (1727-59); fire-dogs decorated with hunters (Rome, Pal. Quirinale); and the chandeliers (Paris, Bib. Mazarine) of the Marquise de Pompadour, which include putti playing among bouquets of roses, as well as representations of castles similar to those that feature on the Marquise's coat of arms. Caffiéri's later works are in the symmetrical version of the Louis XV style, for example the chandelier (1751; London, Wallace) from the collection of the dukes of Parma and the Passament astronomical clock (1753; Versailles, Château) for Louis XV.