L a - b e a u t é - s a u v e r a - l e - m o n d e ~ D o s t o ï e v s k i

L a - b e a u t é - s a u v e r a - l e - m o n d e  ~  D o s t o ï e v s k i

Sunday, December 18, 2016

The gilding of perfection - the work of Pierre Gouthière

"Each to his own taste", as the saying goes. And the designs of the rarefied objects that Gouthière contributed to are certainly not pleasing to every viewer. "Over the top", "gaudy", "fussy", etc., might be some of the expected, disapproving reactions. But to his original clients and to his latter-day "fans" - count me in, whole-heartedly - he was truly a great artist, a genius, one of the greatest craftsmen of all time.

Pair of candelabra, circa 1780-1785. (Four images.)
From the collection of the duc d'Aumont. (Five images.) Pair of incense burners, circa 1775.
One of a pair of vases, 1782.
One of a pair of vases, circa 1770–75.
Pair of Candelabra, 1782.
Vase, circa 1775–80.
Pair of firedogs, circa 1780-85.
Pair of vases, circa 1785. (Three images.)
Pair of vases, circa 1775.
One of a pair of candelabra, circa 1785-90.
From the collection of Marie Antoinette. (Two images.) Pair of ewers, from the cabinet de la méridienne, Versailles, circa 1785.
Pair of firedogs, from the boudoir turc, Fontainebleau, 1777.
Clock, circa 1785-90.
Footed bowl, attributed to Gouthière, circa 1785.
From the collection of the duchesse de Mazarin. (Two images.) Pair of wall lights, circa 1780.
Side table, 1781.
Pair of wall lights, attributed to Gouthière, circa 1785.
From the collection of the duc d'Aumont. (Two images.) Pair of vases, circa 1770–75.
Vase, circa 1775–80.
Pair of candelabra, circa 1785-90.
Pair of vases, circa 1775. (Two images.)
From the collection of the comtesse du Barry. (Two images.) Window knob, circa 1770.
Firedogs from the grand salon carré in the pavilion at Louveciennes, 1771.
One of a pair of candelabra, attributed to Gouthière, circa 1785-90.
From the collection of Marie Antoinette. Secrétaire à abattant, designed by Jean-Henri Riesener, 1783. (Four images.) Additional post HERE.


The Hôtel Gouthière, his mansion in the 10th arrondissement of Paris; built in 1780, he was forced to sell it eight years later.

Pierre Gouthière (1732, Bar-sur-Aube - 1813, Paris), French metal worker, specifically a ciseleur-doreur, considered to be the greatest of his time. Adapted from the Getty Museum website:

The son of a saddlemaker, Pierre Gouthière rose to become the most famous Parisian bronze chaser and gilder of the late 1700s, receiving commissions from some of the leading connoisseurs of his day. Like many successful apprentices, he married the widow of his first employer and took over his establishment. Success came quickly, and in November 1767 he received the title of doreur seul ordinaire or doreur du roi (gilder to the king) from Louis XV. He also supplied works to the comte d'Artois, the duc de Penthièvre, the duc d'Aumont, the marquis de Marigny, and the marchand-mercier Dominique Daguerre, among others.

Gouthière was a master of chasing and invented a new type of gilding that left a matte finish, la dorure au mat. He combined polished with matte finishes to create varied effects on the surfaces of his bronzes. He made many types of objects, including furniture mounts, ornaments for mantelpieces and coaches, and mounts for porcelain or marble vases.

Gouthière was successful and enjoyed an extravagant lifestyle. By the middle of the 1780s, however, after the deaths of two of his major patrons, unwise financial speculations on his part and, mostly, due to the unpaid bills of the comtesse du Barry, mistress of the late Louis XV - she owed him some 750,000 livres for nearly twenty years' work - he was finally forced into bankruptcy in 1787. The Revolution completed his ruin. He died in poverty, still trying to make her heirs repay him. (She, herself, had been executed at the height of the Reign of Terror in 1793.) The case was finally resolved twenty years later, when his son received a small fraction of the original debt as reimbursement.


  1. Good lord! The technical virtuosity of these, along with the prefect balance of the designs is utterly astonishing. Lavish detail, when it is expertly handled, can, like a complex work of music, become a harmonious entity. Thanks for sharing these magnificent examples of human skill and creativity.

  2. That's some kind of craftsmanship, wow. So many sumptuous images, such eye candy. Are there even any artisans alive today who can create these kinds of works of art?

  3. Superb post, many thanks. I had written a post on Facebook on The Frick Collection - Pierre Gouthière: Virtuoso Gilder at the French Court I am curious and researching to see if Gouthière was in the Winter Palace!


    1. Yes, I saw notice of the Frick exhibition; I "follow" the museum on Facebook. Though I've spoken of the master here, previously, that certainly inspired this post. (And several of the images are of objects included in the exhibition.)

      Interesting question about whether the work of Gouthière was ever to be found in the Winter Palace. During his heyday, Cameron held sway with Catherine, and of the great "Parisian" cabinetmakers, only the German David Roentgen seems to have been much collected by the Russian Imperial family. I see that Gouthière sometimes provided mounts for Roentgen, but I don't know if any of the Russian pieces included his work. Paul and Maria Feodorovna - as the "comte and comtesse du Nord" - visited France in 1782, scooping up a lot of "loot" in the process. They definitely came back with pieces attributed to Gouthière - some are still in the collection of Pavlovsk - but whether anything was destined for the Winter Palace, or whether anything "migrated" to the Winter Palace during the 19th century...? Fascinating, isn't it! : )

  4. Thank you very much. I was wondering what was bought during their visit to France. The Winter Palace after 1917 was used to store the collections gathered from the other Imperial Palaces, then occurred the sales in the late 20s-30s. I am not sure what pieces from Pavlovsk were retained by the Hermitage after the final 'sales' and what may have been returned to Pavlovsk. Anna Zelenova was very persuasive!

  5. First of all,god with France and humans being. I'd like to know is that possible buy one of your enchanted products. Thank u

    1. Do you mean my art work? If you do, you would need to contact Froelick Gallery here in Portland; they are lovely people. Thank you! : )