Virtuoso Gilder at the French Court
November 16, 2016, through February 19, 2017
The Frick Collection, 1 East 70th Street, New York, NY 10021
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 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 artist. Presentation of these works at the Frick is organized around the major patrons who commissioned them, bringing to life a sense of the extravagant world for which they were created. The exhibition is also accompanied by an educational video that illustrates how gilt bronze is made. It shows the recreation of one of Gouthière’s iconic pieces, taking viewers step by step through traditional techniques he would have used. Following its presentation at the Frick, the exhibition will travel to Paris, where a version will be shown at the Musée des Arts décoratifs from March 15 through June 25, 2017.
Pierre Gouthière: Virtuoso Gilder at the French Court was organized by Charlotte Vignon, Curator of Decorative Arts, The Frick Collection. This exhibition is supported by the Michel David-Weill Foundation; the Selz Foundation; and two anonymous donors, one in memory of Melvin R. Seiden; with additional contributions from Alfredo Reyes of Röbbig Munich and Edward Lee Cave.
Comments Vignon, “With this exhibition, some five years in the making, we hope the public will appreciate the creativity and craft behind the works created by Gouthière. The beauty and perfection he achieved is worthy of special focus, and we’ve sought to clarify what can be attributed with certainty to his oeuvre while illustrating for visitors the steps of his remarkable technique, now only preserved in the hands of a few craftsmen. Our joy in turning to this topic—which was inspired by a remarkable object in The Frick Collection—is that we hope to kindle further interest in the subject and in other artists who contributed to this remarkable artform.”
New York, NY 10021