History of the gilded bronze

The gilded bronzes of the eighteenth century and the Empire period.

In the late 17th century and early 18th century, an unforeseen craze for gilt bronze invades interiors. The superiority of Paris, fed by the orders of the court of Versailles appears to be overwhelming and extends over the rest of France and whole Europe.

Among all European countries, France had the greatest bronze smiths. Nevertheless the technique seems ancient and in the Middle Ages and in the Renaissance (particularly in Italy, Germany and France), the artists and the craftsmen made a large use of bronze which they gilded by fire using mercury and ormoulu (or moulu). The technique described in the year 1100 by the monk Théophile is not therfore different from the one explained by Diderot and Alembert in their encyclopedia.

At the beginning, gilded bronze is especially used in the locksmithery. It will then be used instead of gilded iron, gilded stucco and gilded wood in interior decorating and furnishing. The Tuileries at first, The Great Gallery of the Louvre and Apollon’s Gallery, Saint Germain and especially Versailles are registered in the accounts for about fifteen years for sums which amount by millions of pounds. Under Louis XIV, Gilded bronze is first used on furniture, then on chandeliers, sonces, firedogs, clocks…

 

The genius shown by Louis XIV in the choice of the best talents is at the origin of the prodigious extension of gilded bronze in France. His sumptuary expenses wider the range of its applications.

After Louis XIV reign, gilt bronze blooms under the influence of Louis XV whom taste is subtle and inventive. Gilt bronze is undeniably at its peak under the reign of Louis XV. All which is intended for Louis XV is of a magnificent work and art and often created according to his own suggestions.Under Louis XVI, the federative element is Marie-Antoinette. Lavish, creative and demanding, she is personally responsible for numerous gilt bronze models conceived for her and among the most refined of her time.

One should not neglect the influence of Versailles and Paris on the great mansions of the French province and the whole Europe. The fame of Parisian craftsmen induces a spectacular movement of craze of the whole society towards the decorating of palaces and luxury houses where gilt bronze shines.

Finally, under the Empire and the restoration, the quality becomes exceptional both by the chasing and by the gilt.