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Baroque sleigh designed by Berain
Magnificent baroque wood and wrought iron sleigh made for the Dauphin, with original light green paint and original oil gilding. The body of the sleigh is in the form of a brilliantly carved dragon-headed chimère, with eagle wings and a lion’s body, rearing up on his hind legs while balancing a seat with his tail, while accompanied in front by dolphins with twisted tails and . On the outside back of the shell-form passenger’s seat, a beautifully carved lion’s mask, his mane composed of acanthus leaves, is flanked by gadrooning containing six crossed “L’s”. Behind the tub chair seat for the passenger, no doubt a child because of the diminutive size of the sleigh, there is a perch for the person controlling the draft horse. The symbolic runners below the sleigh body are decorated with a band of gilded motifs on a painted ground and curve forward in a scroll carved with a gilt bearded man’s face with acanthus leaf “hair.”  
The sleigh rests on an unusually extensive parcel-gilt wrought iron framework necessitated by the small size and delicacy of the sleigh.  The “S”-form brackets under the passenger’s seat have cast-in fleurs-de-lis. On the front cross-members, there are what seem to be gilded three-dimensional iron fleurs-de-lis.
There are sprung devices beneath the driver’s perch (now shortened) that punched into the snow or ice to help turning or braking. A piece of one original wooden runner is attached to the iron under-frame on the proper right side.
[A small portion of the original red velvet upholstery is retained under the later reupholstery; the original black underuphostery is intact on the driver’s seat. A modern leather strap and buckle is under the removable passenger seat, possibly replacing an original seat belt for the young passenger. Small missing pieces. Original paint and gilding somewhat worn.]

The overall design is strikingly reminiscent of the work of Jean I Berain (1640-1711), who, as chief designer (Dessinateur de la chambre et du cabinet du Roi) for the Menus-Plaisirs, the department of the Maison du Roi responsible for the “lesser pleasures of the King”, would have been the designer of such objects for the Royal family at Versailles. Berain also worked extensively for the Grand Dauphin and the sleigh could have been made for his children. The extremely unusual combination of the animals composing the chimera is interesting in a royal context since the lion, the eagle and the dragon are all associated with noble qualities and leadership.

             For a more complete description and analysis, go to ESSAYS and click on "The Dauphin's Sleigh".
Height (ins.): 59 (150 cm)      Length/Width (ins.): 80 (203.5 cm)      Depth (ins.): 35 (89 cm)
Origin: France, late 17th century     Period: Baroque



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