In October 1964, a memorable exhibition was presented at gallery Jacques Kugel, which was then located at 7 rue de la Paix in Paris: entitled “The Golden Age of Strasbourg goldsmith’s art”, it was curated in collaboration with Hans Haug, the charismatic emeritus director of the Strasbourg Museum. To celebrate the 50th anniversary of that exhibition and pay tribute to their father Jacques, Alexis and Nicolas Kugel have decided, in September 2014, to give particular pride of place to silver-gilt – also called vermeil.
A crossroads of both the arts and of Europe, the ‘free’ city of Strasbourg was renowned for its unparalleled gilding and the exceptional skills of its goldsmiths. By honouring several generations of Strasbourg goldsmiths, the Kugel gallery thus celebrates three centuries of artistic excellence. The exhibition articulates along two chronological axes: the German influence during the Renaissance and the Baroque, followed by the 18th and 19th century French influence, including Rococo and Neoclassicism. With more than one hundred objects, the exhibition sheds light on the dual influence under which Strasbourg goldsmiths developed, while covering most styles and forms.
The most significant city of the Germanic Alsace region, from where numerous princely houses originate, Strasbourg is, first, a flourishing German artistic centre. The numerous talented craftsmen belong to the powerful guild of goldsmiths known as the ‘tribu de l’Echasse’, which rigorously assays the quality of craftsmen’s work. On the metal insculpation plates that still exist today, one can count more than 500 marks dating back from 1540 up to the French Revolution. After the annexation of Strasbourg to France in 1681, French influence gathers momentum, notably reaching its height with the building of the Rohan Palace by Robert de Cotte, one of the most prestigious Parisian architects.