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Henri Auguste (1759–1816) was a leading Parisian gold- and silversmith, working in the neoclassical style. In cooperation with the sculptor Jean Guillaume Moitte, who provided him with designs and models, he became one of the leading designers of Empire style in orfèvrerie, a rival of Jean-Baptiste-Claude Odiot and Martin-Guillaume Biennais.
He was the only son of the royal goldsmith Robert-Joseph Auguste (1723–1805), whose workshop he assumed in 1784–85. He continued to receive official patronage under Louis XVI from 1784 onwards and also from Napoleon, as well as from the City of Paris, which commissioned a vast silver service in 1804, in connection with the coronation of Napoleon; of the service that comprised 425 pieces, most were melted down under Charles X; of the remainder, 24 pieces are exhibited in the Salle à manger, Château de Malmaison. Among his private patrons was William Beckford, who was introduced to the work of Moitte and Auguste in Portugal, where he viewed the toilette of Madame d'Aranda in 1787, "by far the most exquisite chef d'oeuvre of the kind I ever saw"; between 1788 and 1802 Beckford acquired four ewers from Auguste, one of them gold, the others silver-gilt; two of them were accompanied by basins.
Auguste received a gold medal in the 3rd Exposition d'industrie, Paris, 1802. He was declared bankrupt in 1806, however, and, though he was given a period of time in which to order his affairs, was caught at Dieppe in 1809 with 94 packing cases, containing some silver, scientific instruments, and furniture) attempting to flee to England and was adjudged a fraudulent bankrupt. He fled successfully to England in 1809. In 1810 his rival Odiot acquired a number of drawings from his workshop, including one for a wine cooler from the City of Paris banquet service, attributed to Moitte and bearing Odiot's collection mark, now at the J. Paul Getty Museum. He died in Jamaica in 1816.
A silver-gilt tureen and stand, made by Auguste for Tommaso Somma, marchese di Circello, 1787, was purchased for the Royal Collection in 1801.
A family portrait, Famille de l'orfèvre Henri Auguste réunie autour d'un table, painted by Gérard François Pascal Simon, 1798, shows the fashionably-dressed couple and their two young sons, grouped around a table in the light of a shaded lamp.
- Birth date in Grove Encyclopedia of Decorative Arts, s.v. "Auguste, family".
- "models for his finest works, which gave him a great superiority over all the other goldsmiths" ("modèles à ses plus beaux ouvrages, ce qui lui donnait une grande supériorité sur tous les autres orfèvres"), according to the biographer of Moitte, J. Lebreton, Notice historique sur la vie et les ouvrages de Moitte (Paris, 1812:29f, quoted in Michael Snodin and Malcolm Baker, "William Beckford's Silver: I" The Burlington Magazine 122 No. 932 (November 1980:735-748) p. 739 and note 26.
- Pierre Arizzoli-Clémentel, "The Percier and Biennais Album in the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris" The Burlington Magazine 140 No. 1140 (March 1998:195-201) p. 196: "one of the most brilliant periods in the history of the luxury arts, the beginning of the nineteenth century in Paris, where Martin-Guillaume Biennais (1764—1843) held sway as fournisseur privilégié for goldsmith's work for the Bonaparte family from 1796 to 1819, along with Henri Auguste and Jean-Baptiste-Claude Odiot".
- Snodin and Baker 1980.
- (Martyn Cook Antiques): pair of silver-gilt soup tureens on stands, 1804.
- Gillian Wilson, "Acquisitions Made by the Department of Decorative Arts, 1979 to Mid 1980", The J. Paul Getty Museum Journal 8 (1980:1-22) pp 14 and notes 6 and 7, illus. fig. D.
- Royal Collection: tureen and stand
- Henri Auguste in American public collections, on the French Sculpture Census website