Saturday 19 November 2016


PIERRE GOUTHIERE (1732-1813)  Virtuoso Gilder to the French Court 
Bling did not begin yesterday! The French Court of pre-Revolutionary times, Louis 16th, Marie Antoinette & Louis XV's mistress Madame Du Barry, were all enamoured of bling - but in this case of such beauty and exquisite detail, such ravishing design & fine texture as to make doorknobs, firedogs, wall lights and vases breathtaking! 
These superb and opulent creations were made by master chaser-gilder PIERRE GOUTHIERE around 1760-1800 and 21 of his finest masterpieces are on show at the FRICK, New York till February 19th. 
Despite being regarded as one of the greatest French artists of the 18th century, this is the first ever exhibition devoted to him. It has a big & excellent catalogue full of detail - about the technique, the history, his workshop, his clients. 
There is also a helpful video demonstrating the processes used to make such complex gilt bronze embellishments. 

I am no scholar of this period, but it just requires a pair of eyes ready to focus on each and every fascinating detail. 
The complex process required designer, sculptor, modeler, mold maker, caster, turner, chaser, and gilder. He could do all!  He was admitted to the Guild as a master chaser & gilder in 1758 aged 26. 
He used a method of sand casting which is elaborate & painstaking. Strangely he did not use the lost wax method. 
Gouthiere had many tools at his disposal to use on the delicate surface of gilt-brass to create his legendary imitation of fur, or horn or flesh. His prices were huge - even more than famous French portrait painters of the era!
His workshop
The video demonstrates these processes. Revealingly there is now no one person who can do this; the Frick had to find craftsmen in Amsterdam & Paris. It is nearly a lost art!   
Madame Du Barry
And his work was very popular with his wealthy important clients. 
Despite this he messed up financially. He forgot to send out bills. Then he decided to build a huge & lavish mansion.
his mansion

Key clients like the Duke of Aumont & Duchess of Mazarin died without paying their enormous debts and he died in poverty in 1813. 
A tragic end to a brilliant 30 year career creating some of the most exceptional, extravagant, exuberant and truly beautiful gilded gilt-bronze decorative objects. 
                                The show goes to Paris in the Spring. 
This famous side table which belongs to the Frick will not go to Paris as Mr Frick, like Mr Burrell, forbade his collection to travel. 
          A truly exceptional show. SEE IT IF U POSSIBLY CAN. 

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