Gilded Interiors: French Masterpieces of Gilt Bronze, The Wallace Collection, Hertford House, Manchester Square, London, W1, until 30th July 2017
We probably all have a vision of what an 18th century French interior may look like – white and gold panelling, commodes, chairs, sumptuous fabrics, tapestries or paintings, and gilded objects such as clocks or candelabra. The latter are probably the items we pay least attention too but you most certainly won’t after visiting this SUPERB exhibition.
We are able to study these objects closely and see the great attention to detail and the exquisite chasing and gilding techniques used. Two of the items on show belonged to Marie Antoinette. The comte d’Artois, the duc d’Aumont and the Prince Regent are other important patrons and clients from the 18th century whom you will discover. Only one of the wondrous pieces does not come from the Wallace Collection and that is a pair of firedogs bought by the future George IV. They are included because they are the same model as a pair owned by the 4th Marquess of Hertford in his Paris home*.
These gilded wonders, which were such an important and integral part of the homes of the great and wealthy 18th century patrons, are the creation of artists such as Pierre Gouthière, François Rémond and Claude Pition and are important examples of 18th century French taste and stunning works of art in their own right.
The exhibition is curated by Dr Helen Jacobsen, Senior Curator and Curator of French Eighteenth-century Decorative Arts at the Wallace Collection who has also written a book on this aspect of the Collection which I shall return to later. She has also borrowed 18th century drawings from the Bibliothèque Municipale in Besançon which are by the noted architect and designer of interiors Pierre-Adrien Pâris and they reveal how Ancient Rome was a source of inspiration while others show how that inspiration was enacted upon.
I have now visited the exhibition three times but will return again and again because each time you see new details and appreciate even more the perfection of 18th century French decorative arts.
* This was not part of Sir Richard Wallace’s bequest and they are now in the Philadelphia Museum of Art.