A very similar pair of ormolu and patinated bronze ewers formerly in the Helen C. Frick Collection, Pittsburgh, is illustrated Pierre Verlet, Les bronzes dorés français du XVIIIe siècle, 1987, p. 205, no. 235. These ewers are inscribed fait par Gouthière ciseleur doreur du roy quai pelletier 1767, indicating that they were made by the famed bronzier Pierre Gouthière (1732-1813). Two other similar pairs include one in porphyry and one in green marble; sold from the Qizilbash Collection, Christie's Paris, December 19, 2007, lot 802 ($1,819,110); and illustrated Hans Ottomeyer and Peter Pröschel, Vergoldete Bronzen, Vol. II, Munich, 1986, p. 565, fig. 4, respectively. Even though identical in structure, these ewers are decorated differently: one with vines, rams' masks and the figure of a satyr, the other with laurel swags, dolphins and a Nereid. Because of the decoration's symbolic meanings, it has been suggested that these ewers were used for wine and water. The present pieces appear to be unique as they are both decorated with dolphin heads and tied acanthus swags. Even though the ormolu mounts of these ewers can be safely attributed to Gouthière based on the signature found on the Frick pieces, the very high quality of craftsmanship and the use of the rams' masks, the mermaid and satyr figures that are hallmarks of Gouthière's early works, the design cannot be assigned to a specific draughtsman. One of the designers to whom the design could be attributed is Jean-Charles Delafosse (1734-1791), whose drawing now in the Metropolitan Museum shows a composition and design elements similar to those found on these ewers, see M.L. Myers, French Architectural and Ornament Drawings of the Eighteenth Century, New York, 1992, p. 57. Regardless of the designer, these ewers proved extremely popular and some of the most illustrious amateurs, including Madame du Barry and tsar Paul I and tsarina Maria Feodorovna, included them in their collections. Furthermore, the design was executed in a variety of materials such as porcelain and Blue John.
Admitted to the Corporation des Doreurs in 1758 and appointed doreur seul ordinaire of the Menus Plaisirs, he was possibly the greatest Parisian ciseleur-doreur of the Louis XVI period and also the inventor of the dorure au mat. The slowness in paying of his clients, which included the duc d'Aumont, the duchesse de Mazarin, the comte d'Artois and the marchand-mercier Daguerre, was one of the main causes which led him to bankruptcy in 1787, after which little is known about his activity
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