Pierre Gouthière: Virtuoso Gilder at the French Court

Exhibition Website

Nov 16 2016 - Feb 19 2017

Frick Collection

New York City, NY

The Frick Collection is organizing the first exhibition to focus on Pierre Gouthière (1732–1813), the great French bronze chaser and gilder who worked for Louis XV and Louis XVI. The exhibition will shed new light on the artist’s production, life, and workshop through the presentation of approximately thirty objects from public and private collections. Attributed with certainty to Gouthière, these works include clocks, vases, firedogs, wall lights, and mounts for Chinese porcelain and hardstone vases. (…)

Pierre Gouthière became a master ciseleur-doreur (chaser-gilder) in 1758, during the reign of Louis XV. Little is known of his early years, but by 1765 he was gilding a number of pieces in both bronze and silver for François-Thomas Germain, the sculpteur-orfèvre du roi (sculptor-goldsmith to the king). In 1767 Gouthière began (…) a long career at the service of the French court. His works were so admired by Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette that in addition to commissioning objects directly, they also acquired masterpieces at the auction organized in December 1782 after the death of the Duke of Aumont, an avid admirer of Gouthière’s production. (…) Besides Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, Gouthière’s clientele included the Count of Artois, the Countess Du Barry, the Duke of Duras, the Duchess of Mazarin, Princess Kinsky, the Marquis of Marigny, and the King of Poland. (…)

Soon after his death in 1813, Gouthière was lauded by collectors, critics, and art dealers as one of the most important eighteenth-century French artists, a fame that has not faded in subsequent centuries. One consequence of the artist’s reputation among the most important French and British collectors was the appearance of copies and overly generous attributions to Gouthière. (…) The exhibition of only those works that can be attributed to Gouthière with certainty will create a new corpus that will help establish further attributions. As part of the project, conservators undertook a technical study of Gouthière’s bronze and gilding techniques. The data provides both the basis for a much-needed reevaluation of the attribution and chronology of Gouthière’s oeuvre and elucidates his workshop practices.

Credit: Exhibition Overview from the Frick Collection website

Whether you go or not, the exhibition catalog, Pierre Gouthière: Virtuoso Gilder at the French Court, celebrates the life of Pierre Gouthière (1732-1813), considered to be one of the best Parisian bronze chasers and gilders of the eighteenth-century. Gouthière is credited with inventing a new type of gilding that left a matte finish—dorure au mat—one of the hallmarks of his work. Although incredibly successful in his day, Gouthière died in relative obscurity and poverty; unlike some of his contemporaries his works never regained popularity after the French Revolution. Included are plates of forty works positively attributed to Gouthière, and five essays by leading experts which examine Gouthière's life, career, clientele, and gilding techniques.

  • Decorative Arts
  • European
  • 18th Century
  • Pierre Gouthière

Exhibition Venues & Dates