Detail of a Table by Etienne Levasseur, ca.1785–87; gilt-bronze mounts by an unidentified maker
(London: The Wallace Collection, F319).
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‘In the True Spirit of Corinth and Athens’: Neo-Classical Gilt Bronze
The 41st Annual Symposium of the Furniture History Society
The Wallace Collection, London, 6 May 2017
To coincide with the international interest in gilt bronze in 2016/17 and the three exhibitions devoted to Pierre Gouthière and his contemporaries in New York (The Frick Collection), Paris (Musée des Arts Décoratifs), and London (The Wallace Collection), this year’s Furniture History Society symposium is devoted to European gilt bronze of the neoclassical period (1770–1830), a time when the passion for the Antique world affected all aspects of artistic production. Speakers from the US, France, Britain, Russia, and Spain will present the latest research on a variety of topics, including aspects of design, production, and patronage. Gilt bronze is a subject that often presents more questions than answers, and recent scholarship has unearthed fascinating insights into this often overlooked art form and the symposium promises to be an important and illuminating day for anyone interested in bronze d’ameublement. It is being hosted at The Wallace Collection, which will stay open for FHS members after the symposium to allow them to see the exhibition Gilded Interiors: French Masterpieces of Gilt Bronze. The day will be chaired by Philip Hewat-Jaboor.
Tickets must be purchased in advance, and early booking is recommended. Fee: £50 for FHS members/£30 for members under 30/ All non-members: £65 with a reduction of £5 if joining the FHS, Ticket price includes morning coffee and afternoon tea. A light lunch will be available for FHS members in the Meeting Room at The Wallace Collection at a cost of £20, to include a glass of wine. Tickets for lunch must be purchased at least 7 days in advance from the Events Secretary or online. The Wallace Collection Restaurant will be open for bookings, and there are plenty of local cafés and restaurants. Tickets can be booked on-line via the FHS website (members only) or via the Events Secretary, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
• Joseph Godla (Chief Conservator, The Frick Collection), ‘Twenty Fingers on Each Hand’: A Study of Pierre Gouthière’s Techniques
• Charlotte Vignon (Curator of Decorative Arts, The Frick Collection), Pierre Gouthière: Bringing a Virtuoso Chaser and Gilder back into the Light
• Anne Forray-Carlier (Curator, 17th & 18th century Decorative Arts, Musée des Arts Décoratifs), In the Context of Neo-Classical Gilt Bronze: The Relationship between Gouthière and Dugourc
• Helen Jacobsen (Senior Curator, Wallace Collection), Gilded Interiors: The Antique as a Design Source for French Gilt Bronze
• Diana Davis (Independent Decorative Arts Researcher), Matt and Burnished Gold: The Regency Taste for Gilt Bronze
• Wolfram Koeppe (Curator, European Sculpture & Decorative Arts, Metropolitan Museum), An Enduring Mystery: Bronze Manufacturing in Vienna, 1775–1825
• Olga Bazhenova (Curator, Metal, Sculpture & Stone, Pavlovsk-Palace Museum, St Petersburg), The Secrets of Russian Bronze
• María Jesús Herrero Sanz (Curator of Sculpture, Patrimonio Nacional, Madrid), Between Neo-Classicism and Antiquity: French Bronzes and Palace Furnishings at the 18th-Century Spanish Court
Jean-Baptiste Lepaute, Mantel clock, detail, 1781
(London: The Wallace Collection)
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Gilded Interiors: French Masterpieces of Gilt Bronze
The Wallace Collection, London, 4 May — 30 July 2017
Curated by Helen Jacobsen
Often designed by leading architects and modeled by important sculptors, gilt bronze was used to create beautiful yet functional objects such as clocks, candelabras, and firedogs and to decorate and embellish highly refined furniture and porcelain. This exhibition showcases luxurious artworks commissioned and owned by the wealthiest patrons and collectors, including leading figures of pre-revolutionary France like Marie-Antoinette, the duc d’Aumont, and the comte d’Artois as well international patrons such as the Prince of Wales (later George IV). Artists such as Pierre Gouthière, François Rémond, and Claude Pition, who ran the finest chasing and gilding workshops, created beautiful works, equal in expense and craftsmanship to some of the greatest paintings and sculpture of the period.
Largely drawn from The Wallace Collection, home to one of the world’s most important collections of French eighteenth-century gilt bronze, these exceptional objects include the exquisite perfume burner by Gouthière once owned by Marie-Antoinette and a pair of candlesticks made for the French Queen to celebrate the birth of her son. The Wallace Collection works will be shown alongside loans from other world-class collections including drawings from the Bibliothèque Municipale in Besançon.
The exhibition will feature drawings by Pierre-Adrien Pâris, one of the foremost architects and interior designers of the period. His highly-detailed works, never before seen in the UK, illustrate how buildings from ancient Rome were used as a fertile source of design for gilt-bronze masterpieces and reveal how the antique world provided artists with contemporary ideas for architecture and decorative art. Architects and designers who travelled to Rome took inspiration from the classical ruins with which they were surrounded and their drawings of architecture and Antique monuments provided the basis for some of the greatest gilt-bronze works ever created.
Gilded Interiors: French Masterpieces of Gilt Bronze will be an opportunity for visitors to engage more fully with these magnificent works, which will be given centre stage in the special exhibition galleries. Well-lit and with the works fully visible ‘in the round’, the exhibition will enable the viewer to experience these works of art in a different way, allowing the exquisite beauty and technical accomplishments of these pieces to be properly admired and enjoyed.
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From I. B. Tauris:
Helen Jacobsen, Gilded Interiors: Parisian Luxury and the Influence of Rome, 1770–1790 (London: Philip Wilson, 2017), 112 pages, ISBN: 978 178130 0589, £20 / $30.
The Wallace Collection has an internationally-renowned collection of French eighteenth-century art but perhaps lesser known today is their stunning collection of gilt-bronze objects. These bronzes d’ameublement—from clocks and mounted Sevres porcelain to wall lights and candelabra—epitomise the levels of luxury achieved in Parisian interiors. Highly expensive and expertly wrought, they illustrate the heights of skilled craftsmanship achieved by French bronze workers in the eighteenth century as well as showcasing the wealth and connoisseurship of their owners. Lavishly illustrated with new photography, this publication will be a book of ‘highlights’ to include the very best of what the Wallace Collection has to offer in this field.
Helen Jacobsen is senior curator and curator of French eighteenth-century decorative arts at the Wallace Collection.