Two Pot-Pourri Vases, ca. 1770–75
Gilt bronze by Pierre Gouthière (1732–1813)
Chinese porcelain, eighteenth century
Hard-paste porcelain and gilt bronze
Musée du Louvre, Paris; transfer from the Mobilier National, 1901
Gouthière’s name appears in the 1794 inventory of the estate of Jean-Baptiste-Charles-François, Marquis of Clermont d’Amboise. The marquis may have commissioned these vases from Gouthière in the early 1770s before he left for the court of Naples, where he was ambassador from 1775 to 1784. This reference, combined with meticulous examination, allows for confirmation of the attribution.
With deeply marked features, notably protruding cheekbones and animated eyebrows, the bearded male, probably a river god, has the remarkable expressiveness so characteristic of Gouthière’s figures. The face has slightly open lips that are fleshy and well defined. The treatment of the hair and beard is especially lively, with thick curls molded and chased with stippling, the recessed parts matte gilded so as to enhance the effect of these very visible sections of the gilt bronze.
The swans emerging from large shells are equally impressive in their naturalism. The feathers on the large birds’ necks and breasts are created by chased stippling of various sizes, along small irregular grooves probably cast in the mold; they contrast with the upper part of the shell, which is a slightly bulging fan shape with alternating matte and burnished ribs. The beaks identify these birds as mute swans, a species common in Europe. Their eyes express fury: about to attack, they unfold their wings on either side of the porcelain pots. Their mood is also indicated by their slightly open beaks, which are edged with a burnished line.