Past Exhibition

Early Work

 
  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.