Vase and Two Incense Burners

photo of faux porphyry vase with an incense burners on either side, all decorated with gilt bronze

Vase and Two Incense Burners, 1764
Gilt bronze by Pierre Gouthière (1732–1813)
Faux porphyry carved by Jean-François Hermand
Stucco imitating porphyry and gilt bronze
Royal Castle, Warsaw

This set was purchased in 1764 in the Parisian workshop of the sculptor and silversmith François-Thomas Germain. The purchase was made on behalf of Stanislas-August Poniatowski, an art connoisseur and the future king of Poland (r. 1764–95). Gouthière claimed authorship in an undated letter he and the silversmith Jean Rameau boldly wrote to the Polish sovereign to circumvent Germain:

"[I take] the liberty of very humbly representing to Your Majesty that, for a long time, we have both been running the works of Germain, silversmith to the king of France; the former for gilding and chasing, being the only one to possess the color in which Your Majesty’s works are gilded, and the latter, for silversmithing;   . . . [we] dare to assert that Germain, who appeared to be their author, was absolutely incapable of making them, or indeed of bringing them to                 perfection . . ."

In these earliest works, Gouthière mastered a range of effects by using matting tools almost exclusively. For example, the smooth surface of the woman’s face was obtained by creating linear patterns with a mat sablé chasing tool hammered in straight rows.

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