Past Exhibition

Checklist

 
  • 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.

  • small standing clock, with horizontal rotating time dials, decorated with gilt-bronze, agate and enamel

    Small Clock with Horizontal Rotating Face, 1767
    Gilt bronze by Pierre Gouthière (1732–1813)
    Lapis lazuli, agate, gilt bronze, and enamel
    Private collection

    Inscription on the collar: fait par gouthiere ciseleur doreur / du roy quay pelletier 1767
    (Made by Gouthière Chaser Gilder / to the King Quay Pelletier 1767)

    See the other Small Clock with Horizontal Rotating Face 

    Early in his career, Gouthière created a number of models that could be customized for various clients, as this clock and the other small clock have been. The example here is made of semi-precious stones, using lapis lazuli for the column and agate for the covered vase, while the other clock is made of wood originally painted in imitation of lapis lazuli but now covered by a thick layer of dark blue paint. Both clocks are signed and dated on their circular bases, under the frieze of acanthus leaves, with an engraved inscription similar to the one found on the Pittsburgh ewer (see the pair of ewers).

    The attribution of the two clocks is based primarily on the authenticity of the signature and the similarity of the chasing to that on other pieces made by Gouthière in the 1760s.

  • black wooden standing clock, with horizontal rotating time dials, decorated with gilt-bronze and enamel

    Small Clock with Horizontal Rotating Face, 1767
    Gilt bronze by Pierre Gouthière (1732–1813)
    Painted wood, gilt bronze, and enamel
    Musée Cognacq-Jay, Paris

    Inscription on the collar: fait par gouthiere ciseleur doreur / du roy quay pelletier 1767
    (Made by Gouthière Chaser Gilder / to the King Quay Pelletier 1767)

    See the other Small Clock with Horizontal Rotating Face 

    Early in his career, Gouthière created a number of models that could be customized for various clients, as this clock and the other small clock have been. The example here is made of wood originally painted in imitation of lapis lazuli but now covered by a thick layer of dark blue paint, while the other clock is made of semi-precious stones, using lapis lazuli for the column and agate for the covered vase. Both clocks are signed and dated on their circular bases, under the frieze of acanthus leaves, with an engraved inscription similar to the one found on the Pittsburgh ewer (see the pair of ewers).

    The attribution of these two clocks is based primarily on the authenticity of the signature and the similarity of the chasing to that on other pieces made by Gouthière in the 1760s.

  • pair of gilt-bronze pitchers, one adorned with a half-man, the other, a half-woman

    Pair of Ewers, 1767
    Pierre Gouthière (1732–1813)
    Gilt bronze
    Frick Art and Historical Center, Pittsburgh

    Inscription on the base: fait par gouthiere ciseleur doreur / du roy quay pelletier 1767
    (Made by Gouthiere Chaser Gilder / to the King Quay Pelletier 1767)

    Gouthière had been a master chaser-gilder for nearly ten years when, on November 7, 1767, he received the title of gilder to the king “on the basis of testimony we possess as to the intelligence, ability and integrity of Mr. Gouthière, merchant gilder in Paris.” Over the next two months, he completed these two ewers, engraving his new title on the rectangular base of the mermaid-handled ewer. Bronze-makers rarely signed their works, but it was standard practice for goldsmiths and silversmiths to do so.

    This ewer model was a great success, and several examples are known in different materials: porphyry (see the pair of ewers), white marble, verde antico, and boxwood root. Following a strategy gleaned in the workshop of François-Thomas Germain, with whom he worked in the 1760s, Gouthière developed models that could be reproduced and adapted — with alteration of the material of the vases and the finish of the gilt bronzes — to the tastes and budgets of various clients.

  • pair of gilt bronze and porphyry large jugs decorated with half-man creature on one, and half-woman creature on the other

    Pair of Ewers, ca. 1767–70
    Gilt bronze by Pierre Gouthière (1732–1813)
    Porphyry and gilt bronze
    Private collection

    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.

  • pair of maroon vases on golden pedestals, circa 1770

    Two Vases, ca. 1770–75
    Gilt bronze by Pierre Gouthière (1732–1813)
    After a design by François-Joseph Bélanger (1744–1818)
    Porphyry carved in Rome in the eighteenth century
    Red porphyry and gilt bronze
    Musée du Louvre, Paris

    A passionate collector of hardstones, the Duke of Aumont was particularly fond of marble, granite, porphyry, serpentine, jasper, and agate, which the neoclassical tastes of the time had brought back into fashion. When possible, he obtained them in Italy, which was generally thought to have the finest stones.

    For these vases, which had been carved and polished in Rome, Gouthière was commissioned to produce gilt-bronze mounts. His intervention was minimal; he created extremely simple bases finely chased with friezes of interlacing motifs and strings of pearls.

  • pair of granite vases on mounted legs made of gilt-bronze, circa 1770

    Pair of Vases, ca. 1770–75
    Gilt bronze by Pierre Gouthière (1732–1813)
    Granite probably carved by Augustin Bocciardi (1719–1797) or Pierre-Jean-Baptiste Delaplanche
    After a design by François-Joseph Bélanger (1744–1818)
    Green granite, bardiglio, and gilt bronze
    Private collection

    It was probably an artisan working in Paris under the direction of the architect François-Joseph Bélanger who carved these rare and original vases, with bottoms in the form of a cul-de-lampe, echoing the knob forms on the tops of the lids. Unable to stand, they had to be supported by a mount, which was created by Gouthière after designs by Bélanger.

    At the sale of the Duke of Aumont’s collections, the pair was sold to Marie Antoinette. We have no details of their royal journey, except that they appeared in 1793 at the Muséum du Louvre. They reappear at an auction sale in Paris in 1837, where they were acquired by the Duke of Cambacérès, Peer of France and future grand master of ceremonies to Napoleon III, before passing through several private collections in France and the United States.

  • gilt bronze window knob, adorned with overlapping "DB" at its center

    Knob for a French Window, ca. 1770
    Pierre Gouthière (1732–1813)
    After a design by Claude-Nicolas Ledoux (1736–1806)
    Gilt bronze
    Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris

    Gouthière made this knob for one of the most lavish French eighteenth century buildings, the pavilion of Louveciennes, designed by the architect Claude-Nicolas Ledoux for Madame Du Barry, Louis XV’s mistress. Although the pavilion can no longer be viewed in its original splendor — the interior decoration was removed and sold to various collectors after the French Revolution — rare elements like this knob made for its Salon en Cul-de-Four, as well as Jean-Honoré Fragonard’s four panels depictingThe Progress of Love, painted for the same room and now in The Frick Collection, attest to the building’s former glory.

    Each myrtle leaf, a symbol of the goddess Venus, is rendered in unique detail, forming an extraordinary lacework of leaves that contrasts with the smooth surface of the interlinked D and B of the royal mistress’s initials. The knob alone confirms the recollection of the painter Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun, who, reflecting on her time spent in Du Barry’s residence decades earlier, wrote: “the locks [at Louveciennes] could be admired as masterpieces of the goldsmith’s art.”

  • marble vase with double gilt-bronze handles, and top, circa 1770

    Pair of Vases, ca. 1770–75
    Gilt bronze by Pierre Gouthière (1732–1813)
    Alabaster probably carved by Augustin Bocciardi (1719–1797) or Pierre-Jean-Baptiste Delaplanche
    After a design by François-Joseph Bélanger (1744–1832)
    Alabaster, green marble, and gilt bronze
    Private collection

    The seventh entry in the sale catalogue for the Duke of Aumont’s collections consisted of two large, handsome columns of verde antico marble discovered in 1766 near the Temple of Vesta in Rome. On top, each had an alabaster vase described in the catalogue as “interesting” and with ornamentation “of an excellent type . . . perfectly carried out.”

    Louis XVI acquired the full set of items. While the columns were kept in the Salle des Antiques at the Louvre, the vases were left in a storehouse for more than twenty years. In 1793, they were transferred to the Muséum du Louvre, but they clearly fell out of favor: in October 1797 — on orders from the Ministry of Finance and to cover the costs of establishing the new museum — these two alabaster vases “of mediocre quality” were sold. The fairly low price of the estimate was clearly determined by the defective alabaster and not by Gouthière’s mounts, the originality and execution of which are almost without equal. In particular, the laurel leaves so realistically capture the density and variety of a branch of blossoming laurel that they look as if cast from nature.

  • pair of blue and gilt-bronze pot-pourri vases shaped like swans

    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.

  • pair of gilt bronze firedogs, decorated with leaves and scenes inlcuding one of child leading goat to sacrifice

    Pair of Firedogs, 1771
    Pierre Gouthière (1732–1813)
    Gilt bronze
    Private collection

    For the Grand Salon Carré in Mme Du Barry’s new pavilion at Louveciennes, Gouthière supplied two pairs of firedogs to complement the two chimneypieces of white marble and gilt bronze. According to Gouthière’s invoice, he presented several drawings and models of firedogs to Du Barry, one of which was found to be “to Madame’s taste” and was used to make the sets of firedogs. The other pair is at the Detroit Institute of Art.

    The low-relief featuring a child leading a goat to sacrifice — directly inspired by the Bacchanal of Children with a Goat sculpted in Rome in 1626 by François Duquesnoy — evokes a ritual purification, which, together with smoldering vases and tripods, and Jupiter thunderbolts, was the favored motif for firedogs in the second half of the eighteenth century. It refers to the first element, fire, and is well suited to the purpose of these gilt-bronze objects and their position next to the flames.

    The theme is completed by a branch of myrtle at the circular bases of the tripods. This motif is associated with the goddess Venus, love, and eternal youth, appropriate for the house of the king’s mistress. It can also be found on the surviving knob (also in this exhibition) and originally on several other decorative elements at Louveciennes.

  • green porphyry vase decorated with gilt-bronze seated female figures on either side

    Vase, ca. 1775–80
    Gilt bronze by Pierre Gouthière (1732–1813)
    Porphyry possibly carved by Augustin Bocciardi (1719–1797) or Pierre-Jean-Baptiste Delaplanche
    After a design by François-Joseph Bélanger (1744–1818)
    Green Greek porphyry and gilt bronze
    Musée du Louvre, Paris; transfer from the Mobilier National, 1901

    Here, Gouthière created elegant mounts in the shape of two seated female figures, looking in opposite directions. Though at first glance they seem identical, these small figures were made from two separate molds. One, representing a female satyress, wears a crown of ivy and holds a branch of the same; the second figure, a mermaid covered in drapery, wears a crown of laurels and clutches a laurel branch. Gouthière’s chasing techniques allowed him to vary the texture of these mounts, breathing life into their expressions and transforming decorative elements into sculptures in their own right. His famous matte-gilding technique gives a soft hue to the skin of the female figures, contrasting with the burnished elements, such as the draperies.

  • green porphyry vase with top, decorated with gilt-bronze ram heads on either side

    Vase, ca. 1775–80
    Gilt bronze by Pierre Gouthière (1732–1813)
    Porphyry possibly carved by Augustin Bocciardi (1719–1797) or Pierre-Jean-Baptiste Delaplanche
    After a design by François-Joseph Bélanger (1744–1818)
    Green Greek porphyry and gilt bronze
    Musée du Louvre, Paris; transfer from the Mobilier National, 1901

    This vase, similar in shape and material to another vase in this exhibition, fetched a much lower price at the sale of the Aumont’s collection. It was sold to Louis XVI, who was prepared to spend three times more for the vase with female figures. Clearly, the cataloguers for the sale thought this vase was of inferior quality since their assessment was less laudatory. The vase is not described, like the previous lot, as one of “high quality,” and the gilt-bronze ornamentation is simply judged to be “adequate.” This judgment is, however, surprising because the rams’ heads are particularly expressive and naturalistic: it might even be possible to identify them as Pyrenean goats. Their hair is exceptionally lively — simply chased on the noses and ears, in contrast to the tight tufts elsewhere on the heads; the latter were cast in the mold and subsequently chased, gilded, and partially burnished. The extraordinary horns, alternately burnished and matte gilded to imitate nature more closely, lend an element of sophistication and luxury.

  • gilt bronze capital decorated with leaves intended to be the top of a column

    Capital for a Porphyry Column, ca. 1775–80
    Pierre Gouthière (1732–1813)
    Probably after a design by François-Joseph Bélanger (1744–1818)
    Gilt bronze
    Musée du Louvre, Paris; Founding collection

    This capital epitomizes the relationships Gouthière had with the most inventive architects of the time, the purity of the neoclassicism he developed under their guidance, and the extravagance of the objects he created for his most illustrious patrons. The capital was made to crown an antique porphyry column owned by the Duke of Aumont, who, during the second half of the eighteenth century, assembled a prestigious collection of marble columns and hardstone vases. These objects were highly sought after by the most refined collectors in Europe since the Renaissance.

    François-Joseph Bélanger, who probably designed the capital, was inspired by an antique column that also belonged to the duke. A large marble ball (now lost) was originally placed on top. Today, only the preparatory drawing for the catalogue engraving gives an idea of the superb contrast of colors between the gilt bronze and the various marbles used.

    At the sale of the Duke of Aumont’s collections, the complete column was acquired by Louis XVI for the enormous sum of 6,999 livres (about twice the annual salary of a teacher). The king purchased it for the future “Muséum” du Louvre (now the Musée du Louvre), which opened in 1793 and still houses the column and capital.

  • pair of porcelain incense burners held on gilt bronze legs and pedestals

    Pair of Incense Burners, ca. 1775
    Gilt bronze by Pierre Gouthièr (1732–1813)
    After a design by François-Joseph Bélanger (1744–1818)
    Japanese Kakiemon porcelain, eighteenth century
    Hard-paste porcelain, porphyry, and gilt bronze
    Private collection

    At the time of his death in April 1782, the Duke of Aumont owned more than four hundred pieces of oriental porcelain, which, along with his hardstone pieces, were the pride of his collection. Eight of them received mounts by Gouthière. Here, as elsewhere, Gouthière’s gilt bronzes enhanced and transformed already highly prized objects.

    In 1767, the duke acquired the bowl painted with a bird at the sale of the famous collector Jean de Julienne, director of the Gobelins tapestry manufactory. We do not know where or when he bought the second bowl, decorated with dragons and pomegranates, but it was probably this purchase that justified replacing the “well-composed” mount of Julienne’s bowl with new ones by Gouthière that would better suit the taste of the day and that of their new owner. The gilt-bronze mounts by Gouthière also allowed Aumont to create a matching pair using similar objects that had been bought at different times.

  • pair of gilt-bronze and blue-steeled firedogs, shaped as seated one-humped camels

    Pair of Firedogs, 1777
    Pierre Gouthière (1732–1813)
    Gilt bronze and blued steel
    Musée du Louvre, Paris; transfer from the Mobilier National, 1901

    In 1777, Gouthière was asked to create several items for Marie Antoinette’s small Cabinet Turc at the Château de Fontainebleau. This prestigious commission included these firedogs, a chimneypiece, a chandelier, a pair of wall lights, and a shovel and tongs, the handles of which featured “African heads.” Only the firedogs and chimneypiece (still in situ at the Château de Fontainebleau) have survived.

    Firedogs were designed and used as the decorative facade of an andiron, a metal support that holds burning wood in a fireplace. The design of these examples, in the shape of seated dromedaries, was in keeping with the oriental decorative theme of the Cabinet Turc, which was meant to transport the queen into a world of fantasy, sensuality, and refinement. The bases are decorated with an elegant arabesque frieze characteristic of the neoclassical style favored by the queen.

  • pair of gilt bronze wall lights, decorated in flowers and leaves, hung from chain

    Pair of Wall Lights, ca. 1780
    Pierre Gouthière (1732–1813) 
    After a design by François-Joseph Bélanger (1744–1818) 
    Gilt and patinated bronze
    Musée du Louvre, Paris; gift of the Société des Amis du Louvre, 2002

    These wall lights were intended for the large gallery-salon of the Duchess of Mazarin’s hôtel particulier. From at least the mid-1770s, Gouthière had been proposing two sizes (small and large) of poppy wall lights to his clients. However, these differ from the other models by the extreme richness of the poppy branches with numerous flowers, almost every one distinct, features that increased both the time and cost of making the lights. Some of the flowers are only buds while others are fully opened to form the candle holders. Because they were intended to be hung relatively high up, the undersides of the flowers were burnished to sparkle with reflected light.

    The modeling and chasing of the flowers — especially the poppies, the flower of sleep and dreams — demonstrate Gouthière’s mastery of his craft. To appeal to a client eager for symbolic objects, a quiver of love completes their design.

  • one of pair of gilt bronze firedog, in which an eagle has its talon in creature beneath it

    Pair of Firedogs, 1781
    Pierre Gouthière (1732–1813)
    Modeled by Philippe-Laurent Roland (1746–1816) after a design by François-Joseph Bélanger (1744–1818)
    Gilt bronze
    Mobilier National, Paris

    Two renowned sculptors worked in collaboration with Gouthière on the fireplace for the large salon of the Duchess of Mazarin’s hôtel particulier on Quai Malaquais. For the firedogs, Philippe-Laurent Roland modeled the two eagles of Jupiter — with their wings outspread and each holding a thunderbolt and a salamander — before the groups were chased and gilded by Gouthière. For the chimneypiece (now lost), Jean-Joseph Foucou modeled the two large figures of satyresses, which were then chased and fully gilded by Gouthière. The proud and stern portrayal of the two eagles contrasted with the feminine characteristics of the chimneypiece. An eighteenth-century version of this chimneypiece with gilt and patinated bronze satyresses is now in the Fragonard Room at The Frick Collection.

  • photo of four-legged marble side table, decorated in gilt-bronze detail with a face at the center, circa 1781

    Side Table, 1781
    Gilt bronze by Pierre Gouthière (1732–1813)
    Marble supplied and carved by Jacques Adan
    After a design by Jean-François-Thérèse Chalgrin (1739–1811) working under François-Joseph Bélanger (1744–1818)
    Blue turquin marble and gilt bronze
    The Frick Collection, New York; Henry Clay Frick Bequest

    This table was in the workshop of Gouthière (with the gilding yet to be completed), when the Duchess of Mazarin died on March 17, 1781. What subsequently happened to it and for whom Gouthière finished it is not known, but it remains one of the artist’s masterpieces. The mask at the center of the entablature is one of the most beautiful faces ever created in gilt bronze. Its fine and perfectly regular features follow the classical canon then in fashion but are animated by a lively gaze, with eyes that look to the right under slightly lowered eyelids and a mouth that expresses a pensive self-confidence. Is it a young man or a beautiful woman? Gouthière’s invoice merely refers to a “head.” Bacchus immediately springs to mind, surrounded by ivy leaves, a living allegory of the Roman god’s eternal youth, and placed between two thyrsi; however, the braids and pearls suggest a female. Either way, the figure is deep in thought. The hair — a tour de force in itself — is wavy, rolled into curls and plaited into braids that intermingle with a pearl necklace and two ivy branches; this variety of texture was created in the original clay model and magnificently reworked during the chasing process. The ivy leaves, which curl around the two thyrsi that terminate in pinecones, are so naturalistic that they seem to be real specimens dipped in gold.

  • 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.

  • large sea-green porcelain vase, decorated with gilt-bronze snakes and harpies

    Pair of Vases, 1782
    Gilt bronze by Pierre Gouthière (1732–1813)
    After a design by François-Joseph Bélanger (1744–1818)
    Chinese Celadon porcelain, eighteenth century
    Hard-paste porcelain, porphyry, and gilt bronze
    Musée du Louvre; transfer from the Mobilier National, 1870

    At the time of the Duke of Aumont’s death, Gouthière had nine items in his workshop including this pair of vases (originally Chinese garden seats) that had not yet been delivered to his greatest client and patron. However, he managed to complete the mounts before the sale of the duke’s collections, when the two vases were acquired by Louis XVI for an astonishingly high sum (7,501 livres).

    Gouthière created the mounts after a design by François-Joseph Bélanger, whose composition of arabesques, rinceaux, snakes, and harpies was at the height of fashion in the 1780s. Gouthière’s interpretation of the architect’s complex design demonstrates his mastery of the medium of gilt bronze. For example, to imitate a snake more faithfully, the skin on top of the snakes is chased to create small scales, while the undersides are chased with larger ones. Gouthière’s naturalism is just as remarkable on the harpies, whose numerous feathers are pared back (dégraissés) to give them lightness, then chased to make them look as lifelike as possible. Gouthière demonstrates his virtuosic mastery by creating these complex mounts while avoiding any piercing of the porcelain.

  • sketch of blue pitcher with woman figure as handle

    Preparatory Drawing for the Engraving, Representing a Ewer from the Duke of Aumont’s Collections, 1782
    Pierre-Adrien Pâris (1745–1819)
    Pencil, ink, and watercolor on paper
    In Catalogue des effets precieux qui composent le Cabinet de feu M. le duc d’Aumont. Par P. F. Julliot fils et A. J. Paillet (December 12−21, 1782)
    Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Paris

    Written by Philippe-François Julliot, a well-known merchant of luxury goods, and the painter Alexandre-Joseph Paillet, the catalogue for the estate sale of the collections of the Duke of Aumont included thirty engraved plates. The preparatory drawings for these engravings were made by the architect Pierre-Adrien Pâris, who had worked for the duke in the 1770s, decorating his hôtel particulier on Place Louis XV in Paris. Upon Aumont’s death, Pâris was summoned to appraise the unfinished gilt bronzes still on Gouthière’s premises.

    Pâris made two additional drawings that were not engraved (including the one above and the one reproduced at the inset) that illustrate now lost objects by Gouthière. This watercolor represents one of a pair of celadon porcelain ewers, with gilt-bronze mounts by Gouthière, that were sold at the duke’s sale to an individual named “Abraham.” They were auctioned again two years later.

    The illustration below represents an urn (from a pair) said to be in “lapis-colored old porcelain from China” and ornamented with a gilt-bronze mount by Gouthière. The catalogue states that they are “as precious for the perfection of their form and their color as they are for the ingenious taste of their ornamentation and the merit of their finish.” Unsurprisingly, these refined objects were acquired for Marie Antoinette.

  • pair of large porcelain jugs with gilt-bronze decorations such as female heads, goat heads and swan head spouts

    Pair of Ewers, ca. 1785
    Gilt bronze attributed to Pierre Gouthière (1732–1813)
    Chinese porcelain from the Kangxi period (1662–1722)
    Hard-paste porcelain and gilt bronze
    Private collection

     

    In the 1780s, Gouthière made the gilt bronzes for the chimneypiece of the Salon des Nobles in Marie Antoinette’s apartment at the Château de Versailles and for that of her foyer at the Paris Opéra. During the same years, he probably made the gilt-bronze mounts for this pair of ewers, known to have belonged to Marie Antoinette. No document has been found to confirm their attribution, but the expressiveness in the female and goat heads combined with the naturalistic finish on the various grapevines and leaves are characteristic of Gouthière’s work.

    It is not known when or under what circumstances Marie Antoinette came into possession of these ewers. She displayed them at the Château de Versailles in the Cabinet de la Méridienne, a room in her private apartments where she kept her collection of rare and luxurious porcelains, hardstones, and lacquers, some mounted in gilt bronze by Gouthière.