Pair of Ewers, ca. 1767–70
Gilt bronze by Pierre Gouthière (1732–1813)
Porphyry and gilt bronze
The mounts on these two ewers bear many features that recur in Gouthière’s work, among them, the naturalistic chasing of the veins of the leaves, the highly expressive human and animal figures, and the extremely fine stippling used for the textures of the bodies and faces. Also noteworthy is the matte gilding, a specialty of Gouthière’s, on everything but details such as the dolphins’ eyes, the ribbon bows, and the draperies, which are burnished.
These ewers were purchased in Paris in 1799 by Tsar Paul I for St. Michael’s Castle in Saint Petersburg. When they were delivered, on October 8, 1799, they were accompanied by a small pot-pourri vase. The set was displayed in the tsar’s bedroom, where he was assassinated on March 23, 1801, and kept at the Imperial Hermitage until October 6, 1823, when Tsar Alexander I had them transferred to the Peterhof Palace outside the city.