After a fireback once commissioned by Nicolas Fouquet, for his Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte, this large iron fireback was cast in France during the late 1600s/early 1700s (the original was from 1661). Fouquet was a powerful financial advisor in the 17th century, with close ties to both Cardinals Richelieu and Mazarin, as well as Louis XIV himself. At the young age of 19, Fouquet was appointed by Richelieu as “councilor of the Parliament of Metz”, an important city in northeast France. Fouquet would eventually rise to become Superintendent of Finances (Surintendant des finances) of France until he was imprisoned by Louis XIV in 1661 (Fouquet’s extravagant displays of wealth conflicted with the heavy debt incurred by the crown, causing Louis XIV to believe that Fouquet was embezzling). Interestingly, Fouquet was arrested unsuspectingly by d’Artagnan, who would later be fictionalized in the Alexandre Dumas novel, Les Trois Mousquetaires (known in English as The Three Musketeers).
Our large and thick fireback features military and musical motifs flanking an oval coat of arms medallion. The overall shape of the fireback is rectangular, with an arched top that is filled by an open crown that tops the heraldic display, which consists of a banded husked wreath surrounding four scrolled “F’s” that are pierced by an arrow. There is a crinkled ribbon at the bottom that folds over the wreath and trails down below. On the right side of the medallion is a five-string lyre in front of laurel and acanthus leaves. To the left of the coat of arms is a crested helmet over a sword sheath, once again fronting two distinct foliate branches. The entire grouping is surrounded by two borders that follow the overall shape of the iron: spiral fluting inside a series of repeating roundels.
Firebacks have been used for centuries to not only protect the walls of fireplaces, but to redirect heat back into the house. Our large 18th century fireback can still be used in that capacity. It can also be inserted into a wall, making for a unique piece of decorative art. Another potential use is to mount the fireback in the kitchen as a stove backsplash.
*Please make note of fireback size and exceptional thickness (very heavy). The original 1661 fireback can be seen today in Chateau Vaux-le-Vicomte in Madame Fouquet’s cabinet.
CONDITION: Good antique condition, with light buildup and oxidation. Fleabites and some lightly faded elements, particularly near the bottom, commensurate with age and use. Heavy item.