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Travel Tip: Art and Archaeology in United States
All That Glitters Is Not Gold

All That Glitters Is Not Gold : The Art, Form, and Function of Gilt Bronze in the French Interior
NEW YORK  •  Metropolitan Museum of Art  •  Ongoing
Many of the gold objects adorning sumptuous French interiors—from the Palace of Versailles to grand residences in Paris—are generally not made of gold at all but of gilt bronze. Both functional and highly decorative, gilt-bronze mounts and bronzes d'ameublement, such as light fixtures, fireplace fittings, and clocks, played a very important role in the French interior from the late seventeenth to the early nineteenth century. Always in keeping with the latest stylistic changes, gilt-bronze pieces were often designed by well-known artists and sculptors, such as Juste-Aurèle Meissonnier and Augustin Pajou, and manufactured by highly specialized craftsmen. A rigid guild system maintained the high standards of craftsmanship and regulated the process of gilt bronze manufacture.

Clock, 1775, French
Clockmaker: Jean-Baptiste Lepaute (1727–1802)
Figures after models by Augustin Pajou (1730–1809)
Gilt bronze, marble; H. 37 in. (94 cm), W. 41 in. (104.1 cm), D. 12 1/2 in. (31.8 cm)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Gift of J. Pierpont Morgan, 1917
Photo courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Drawn from the collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the exhibition features some eighty object including mounts made for furniture, clocks, vases, and other objects, as well as furniture, and mounted porcelain and hardstone vases. Among the examples of bronzes d'ameublement is a pair of fanciful Rococo candlesticks after a model by Meissonnier (ca. 1693–1750). A spectacular mantle clock designed by Pajou (1730–1809), made of gilt bronze on a marble base and representing the "Triumph of Love over Time," is also on view. Another exceptional object is a splendid tripod microscope of gilt bronze and blue-green shagreen, or sharkskin, made in 1760 by Claude-Siméon Passement (1702–1769), the scientific instrument maker to King Louis XV. Well-informed about the scientific developments of his day, the king is likely to have owned a comparable example.

Metropolitan Museum of Art Web Site

Contact: Tel: (1) 212 535 77 10

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