Gilded Interiors Parisian Luxury & The Antique – Book Review

Updated on August 17, 2017
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Frances has many years' experience writing about exhibitions in art galleries and museums.

Gilded Interiors Parisian Luxury & The Antique

Gilded Interiors Parisian Luxury & The Antique by Helen Jacobsen. Copyright image by Frances Spiegel with permission from The Wallace Collection. All rights reserved
Gilded Interiors Parisian Luxury & The Antique by Helen Jacobsen. Copyright image by Frances Spiegel with permission from The Wallace Collection. All rights reserved

Gilded Interiors Parisian Luxury & The Antique by art historian Helen Jacobsen was released to accompany the Wallace Collection's 2017 spring exhibition entitled Gilded Interiors: French Masterpieces of Gilt Bronze.

Dr Helen Jacobsen – About the Author

Dr Helen Jacobsen is Curator of French eighteenth-century decorative arts at the Wallace Collection. A graduate of Cambridge University, she originally pursued a career in investment banking. Because of an overwhelming desire to pursue her deep interest in cultural history she then studied for her D.Phil looking specifically at seventeenth-century diplomats and their world. Dr Jacobsen lectures on seventeenth and eighteenth-century decorative arts and architecture. Previous publications include Luxury and Power The Material World of the Stuart Diplomat, 1660-1714 (Oxford Historical Monographs).

Informative Texts Explore the Finest Work of Eighteenth-century Craftsmen

In this publication the author explores the Wallace's comprehensive holdings of gilt bronzes, probably one of the finest collections in the world. Through informative texts, supported by first-class photography, we are introduced to the work of some of the eighteenth-century's finest architects, sculptors, designers, modellers and metalworkers.

Inspired by the Ancient World

Dr Jacobsen tells us about the Wallace's gilt-bronzes and Parisian tastes for extreme luxury in pre-revolutionary France.

Artists such as French architect Pierre-Adrien Paris travelled to Italy where he meticulously recorded monuments, palaces, temples and antiquities. Through Paris's drawings we see how the Ancient world inspired French art and architecture in the eighteenth century.

Functional, Very Beautiful and Hugely Expensive

Concentrating on the last two decades of the eighteenth century, Jacobsen discusses the works of artists such as Pierre Gouthière, François Rémond, Jean-Baptiste Lepaute, Claude Pition and others. These master craftsmen created a wide variety of items such as candlesticks, candelabra, wall-lights, clocks, fire-dogs and exquisite mounted precious objects. There were admired for their beauty, highly functional and hugely expensive. They added luxurious refinement and sophistication to the lavish homes of European and English aristocracy.

How Were Gilt-bronzes Made?

Jacobsen tells us French bronzes d'ameublement, or furnishing bronzes as they were known at the time, were among the finest in Europe, but how were they made?

A two-dimensional design would be created, often by an architect or sculptor. Then a three-dimensional model was made, cast and chased with chasing tools. The model was gilded using the mercury gilding technique. A paste of ground gold and mercury was applied to the item. Gold was fused onto the object by passing it through a flame, a procedure carried out several times to create a ravishing lustre. Burning off the mercury is dangerous and extremely poisonous and many gilders died young after inhaling noxious fumes.

Gilded Interiors Parisian Luxury & The Antique – A Fine Gift

This luxurious publication is presented on high-quality paper. Featuring superb photography by Cassandra Parsons and fascinating and informative texts by Helen Jacobsen, the book will be appreciated by anyone interested in French eighteenth-century decorative art from academics to the merely curious.

Gilded Interiors Parisian Luxury & The Antique provides an enduring record of the exhibition and is available from the Wallace Collection and all good book stores. Further information about the book and the exhibition it accompanies is available from The Wallace Collection.

© 2017 Frances Spiegel


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