Pair of Candelabra

photo of pair of white porcelain candelabras, on pedestals, decorated with gilt-bronze

Pair of Candelabra, 1782
Gilt bronze by Pierre Gouthière (1732–1813)
After a design by François-Joseph Bélanger (1744–1818)
One vase, Meissen factory porcelain, ca. 1720; the other, a later replacement
Hard-paste porcelain and gilt bronze
The Frick Collection, New York; Gift of Sidney R. Knafel, 2016

These candelabra, among Gouthière’s last commissions for the Duke of Aumont, are a true tour de force. The extremely detailed chasing lends a naturalistic appearance to the swirling ivy and grapevines decorating the vases’ shoulders, as well as to the individual pomegranates, pears, and other fruits that spill from the cornucopias that form each candleholder. At the same time, the rough texture of the goats’ ridged horns contrasts with the silky appearance of their wool. Gouthière’s superb chasing was embellished by his unique gilding techniques, which included dorure au mat, or matte gilding, that can be seen here on the goat’s heads and on the many leaves on the candleholders.

What distinguishes these candelabra is the contrast of the bronzes made by Gouthière — whose craftsmanship is comparable to that of a goldsmith — with the simplicity of the white vases. These were considered in the Aumont sale catalogue to be of Meissen porcelain, although they appear in the section titled “old white Japanese porcelain.” Regardless of what Aumont knew about the porcelain, he valued these vases highly enough to have commissioned such exquisite mounts for them.

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