The nature and artistic circumstances of Lucien Gautrait are mysterious. Little is known about Gautrait, and even records of his name are unreliable, ranging from the common ‘Lucien’ to some who referred to him as ‘Leopold’. The jewelry industry at the turn of the century was highly confusing, with no set regulations. It was hard to determine if the name attributed to a piece denotes designer or craftsman, manufacturer or retailer. Verver, a successful jeweler of the Art Nouveau period whom Gautrait was said to work for as well, refers to Gautrait as a ciseleur-modeleur and fidele collaborateur of the Parisian jeweler Leon Gariod.
The known pieces by Gautrait are mainly pendants and brooches and reveal him to have been an imitator of Lalique’s motifs. His compositions have a distinctive ornamental character and show a preference for swung contours into which functional pieces, such as loops and fastenings, are fitted. Gautrait was highly skilled at creating bird pieces, specifically peacocks, with lush, densely colored and glittering plumage made with enamel. The effect of finely chased gold and enamels is most obvious, while precious stones provide discreet accents. Work attributed to Gautrait is also notable for the finely sculpted female faces and exceptional luminous enamel work. Most of the pieces created at Leon Gariod’s firm bear not only his signature ‘L. Gautrait’, but also the company stamp of Leon Gariod showing the monogram ‘LG’ separated by a horn-like symbol in a vertical lozenge (registered 1884).
Aside from the scattering of pieces that can be positively attributed to Gautrait, little else is known about the man or his work. Contemporary exhibition catalogues, salon reports and articles in specialist periodicals provide scant clues to supplement the information gleaned from his pieces.
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