Exhibition | Gilded Interiors: French Masterpieces of Gilt Bronze
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.