This magnificent vase celebrates the festive rites of Bacchus, and is richly mounted with ram's masks with exotically spiralling horns, suspending festoons of Pan's pipes and grape-vine clusters, below which festive satyr-putti are crouched on branches of scrolling acanthus, issuing Bacchic lion's paw feet.
The superb mounts can be confidently attributed to Pierre Gouthière, on the basis of their close similarity to the celebrated pair of ewers from the Cabinet Intérieur de la Reine of Marie Antoinette, sold by the Trustees of the Luton Hoo Foundation in these Rooms, 9 June 1994, lot 35 (£1,046,500 inc. premium). The Marie Antoinette ewers not only have identical lion's paw feet and laurel-leaf collars to the base and similar Bacchic ornament throughout, but also are of the same distinctive aubergine-glazed Kangxi porcelain. It is also fascinating to note that the vase offered here, which has the same ribbed ornament to the Marie Antoinette ewers, was evidently adapted from a ewer, as the opening for the spout can clearly be viewed inside.
PIERRE GOUTHIERE (1732-circa 1814)
Pierre Gouthière was the most famous bronzier of the Louis XVI period, and one of the handful of craftsmen of the 18th century whose fame never diminished, along with Boulle, Cressent and Riesener. A maître doreur-ciseleur in 1758, he was appointed in 1767 doreur ordinaire des Menus Plaisirs. From that point on, he was Marie Antoinette's principal bronzier, often working in collaboration with the architect-designer Franôis-Joseph Bélanger (1744-1818). In 1769-70 Gouthière supplied the mounts for Marie Antoinette's jewel-cabinet which was designed by Bélanger, while the garde-meuble privé de la Reine commissioned Gouthière to manufacture bronzes d'ameublement with a payment of 19,711 livres.
Gouthière's most important private patron was the celebrated connoisseur-collector the duc d'Aumont, director of the Menus Plaisirs, who in 1770 established a workshop there to cut and polish precious marbles and hardstones and embellish them with ormolu mounts, with Bélanger as its director.
The Marie Antoinette ewers appeared in the sale of the duc d'Aumont's collection in 1782 (where she bought several other pieces by Gouthière) with earlier Louis XV mounts. It is natural to assume that she turned to her favourite bronzier to provide more up-to-date mounts in the fashionable goût étrusque, and also likely that the design for these striking mounts was provided by Bélanger, whose close collaboration with Gouthière was by now well-established. It is interesting to note that following the duc d'Aumont's death, Bélanger was owed 24,000 livres for 'un grand nombre de plans, dessins et esquisses pour le Duc...tant pour architecture de bâtiments que pour vases, colonnes, tables.'
A trumpet vase with virtually identical mounts is in the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles (discussed in the J. Paul Getty Museum Journal, Malibu, 1988, volume 16, pp. 178-9,no.74), while an almost identical pair of vases to that in the Getty Museum, originally from the collection of Baron and Baronne Cassel van Doorn, was sold from the Bensimon collection, Etude Couturier Nicolay, Paris, 18-19 November 1981, lot 112.