Perfection that touches the heart
Gold might seem a material that blinds the eye to the aesthetic beauty of any sculpture with its assertive glow and high monetary value, but when wrought and then gilded by Pierre Gouthiere, who lived from 1732–1813. for the likes of Marie Antoinette and Madame Du Barry in the reigns of Louis XV and XVI, it achieved an astonishing peak of perfection which easily transcends its appeal to cupidity, although there are infra red alarms in the basement exhibition rooms of the Frick now devoted to an unprecedented collection of the table (owned by the Frick), candlesticks, ewers (pitchers), and other household objects all of which can be certainly ascribed to his hand from a milieu when he was widely copied, since his achievement was considered on a par with Fragonard and other painters of the time in France, and indeed he matched their prices, with decorative handcrafted works which include the most impressive here, the living portraits of goats, faces and what seemed to us to be the superb pair of tiny human nudes that appear immediately on the left when entering the right hand exhibition gallery, whose extraordinary beauty seems to transcend the material plane and give them a poignant quality where human art and craftsmabship touches the ideal where an inanimate work seems to live and touch our hearts as well as minds.
Pot-pourri vase (detail), Gilt bronze by Pierre Gouthière, ca. 1770−75, Chinese hard-paste porcelain, eighteenth century, Each, 11 × 12⅝ × 7½ inches, Musée du Louvre, Paris; photo: RMN-Grand Palais / Art Resource, NY
Pierre Gouthière: Virtuoso Gilder at the French Court
FIRST EXHIBITION ON REMARKABLE EIGHTEENTH-CENTURY ARTIST PIERRE GOUTHIÈRE: VIRTUOSO GILDER AT THE FRENCH COURT November 16, 2016, through February 19, 2017 Pierre Gouthière (1732–1813) was one of the greatest French artists of the eighteenth century. A master chaser-gilder, he created opulent objets d’art that were coveted by the wealthiest and most important figures of pre- revolutionary France, including Louis XVI, Marie Antoinette, Louis XV’s mistress Madame Du Barry, and the Duke of Aumont.
Like a sculptor, he made his own models and had them cast in metal. Using dozens of specialized tools, he then created patterns and textures on the surface of the metal objects before gilding them.
So exceptional was his talent that his work commanded amounts equal to, and sometimes greater than, those asked by the era’s most famous painters and sculptors. Furthermore, such was the popularity and prestige of this work that over the last two centuries, many
Pot-pourri vase (detail), gilt bronze by Pierre Gouthière, ca. 1770−75, Chinese hard-paste porcelain, eighteenth century, Musée du Louvre, Paris; photo: RMN- Grand Palais / Art Resource, NY
French eighteenth-century gilt bronzes have been erroneously attributed to him.
This fall, New York’s Frick Collection presents the first exhibition devoted to Gouthière, a project that brings together twenty-one of his finest masterpieces, drawn from public and private collections across Europe and the United States. Many of these remarkable objects—from firedogs, wall lights, and doorknobs to elaborate mounts for rare Chinese porcelain and precious hardstone vases—have never before been shown publicly in New York, and their assembly in an exhibition will provide the basis for a fresh understanding of his oeuvre. With new art historical and technical research by leading experts in the field, the exhibition and accompanying catalogue shed fresh light on the life, production, workshop, and clientele of this incomparable