A very beautiful Louis XVI Sèvres gilt bronze mounted and gilt painted turquoise-ground porcelain vase and cover gilded by Étienne-Henri Le Guay bearing the factory mark (indistinct) and gilder's mark LG, surmounted by a pinecone finial above a domed cover painted with roses and other flowers within two shaped panels with gilded border within a turquoise-ground with foliate scrolled gilding, the cup fitted either side by a pair of gilt bronze handles centred by an Apollo mask, the lip with stiff-leaf band above gilded palmettes, the body decorated with paintings of flowers and fruit within two shaped panels enclosed by a gilded border within a turquoise-ground, the gilded base with beaded guilloche knop on a flaring fluted stem above a circular foot, on a square base
Sèvres, Paris, date circa 1780
Height 20 cm, width 12 cm, depth 9 cm.
It was not until about 1770 that gilders working at Sèvres began to sign their name on individual pieces. Among the finest of those was Étienne-Henri Le Guay (1719 d. circa 1799) who in 1755 was recorded as the highest paid gilder. He received 80 livres a month (increasing later to 90 livres), which was considerably more than painters such as Jean-Louis Morin who earned 33 livres and Charles-Nicolas Dodin (42 livres) but as much as the painter André-Vincent Vielliard. According to contemporary accounts, Le Guay was considered very able, diligent and made good daily progress. He joined the factory (then based at Vincennes) in 1742 where at first he polished and glazed the porcelain wares before joining Louis XV's regiment for six years. However the king's mistress, Madame Pompadour (who like the king took an active interest in the factory) personally arranged that Le Guay should receive a loan in order to buy his release and thus through her intervention he was allowed to return to Vincennes, which in 1756 moved to Sèvres.
A battle wound left Le Guay with a withered hand, but this did not prevent him from becoming one of the factory's finest gilders. His name appears in the records dating from 1748-9 and again from 1751 up until 1796. During that time he was responsible for gilding many of the factory's finest pieces, including special porcelain commissioned for Louis XVI, Marie-Antoinette and the Russian Empress Catherine the Great. Examples of his work can be found in the British Royal Collection including a cup and saucer decorated with a portrait of Rabelais as well as an ice pail (part of the Louis XVI service and painted by Dodin). Other pieces include a wine bottle cooler of 1790 (part of the Louis XVI service) as well as a garniture known as the 'Vases des Ages' decorated with mythological scenes, made 1780-81 for Louis XVI which are now in the J. Paul Getty Museum, California. Le Guay was also responsible for the gilding of the Longleat service as well as a blue and gilt tray decorated with marine scenes in the Luton Hoo collection and a liqueur bottle and cooler from the Catherine the Great service now at Upton House, near Banbury, Oxfordshire.
His sons Pierre-André Le Guay (fl. 1773-1817) and Étienne-Charles Le Guay (1762-1846) both worked as painters at Sèvres. Pierre-André specialised in figurative scenes and Chinoiserie decoration while Étienne-Charles was noted as a painter of human figures and portraits etc, his working period covering the dates 1778-82 and 1809-40.