Barometer-thermometer in the form of a Chinese pagoda

Barometer-thermometer in the form of a Chinese pagoda

Paris, c. 1750
Parisian varnish on wood core, gilt bronze, porcelain flowers, wax figures, ivory, glass.
0.43 x 0.27 x 0.31 cm
Purchased with the support of the Comité Stratégique and the Club des Partenaires des Arts Décoratifs.
Inv. 2008.95.1
© Les Arts Décoratifs

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This barometer-thermometer, mounted in gilt bronze, is typical of the small Chinese objects that adorned fashionable interiors in the mid-eighteenth century and is a perfect example of the kind of object that could be purchased from Parisian marchands-merciers (furniture dealers). It features lacquer and porcelain, two materials that had been popular in the West since the discovery of Far Eastern products. This small pagoda contains two Chinese figures, one or the other of which emerged according to weather conditions. Each wax figure stands on a small platform; the lightness of the wax allowed the platforms to move. Between the two platforms is a length of catgut, which expands or retracts according to the amount of moisture in the air, making the platforms move. A thermometer between the two niches shows the temperature. This precious pagoda, topped by a weather vane in the form of a butterfly, is part scientific instrument and part curio.
This piece came from the collections of the Bouchet de Sourches and Tourzel families; before 1902, it stood in the drawing room of the Château d’Abondant.

A. F.-C.

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