Laurent Amiot, Reliquary-Monstrance of Saint Charles Borromeo (detail), c. 1823, silver, glass, textile, metal paillettes, gold foil and paper, 28 × 16 × 12 cm; 667.47 g. Fabrique Saint-Charles Borromée de Charlesbourg, Quebec City. Probably commissioned by the fabrique Saint-Charles Borromée to enclose the relic presented by Monsignor Joseph Octave Plessis, 15 April 1823. Photo: NGC

Discover Laurent Amiot’s talent and ingenuity in the very first retrospective devoted to the artist and his work.

Laurent Amiot: Canadian Master Silversmith brings together an exceptional selection of silver pieces from the collection of the National Gallery of Canada, as well as from various public and private collections around the world.

Considered one of the most influential Canadian silversmiths of the 18th and 19th centuries, Laurent Amiot completely redefined his craft, turning it into an art form.

Visitors to the National Gallery of Canada can explore the brilliance and delicacy of his work through the presentation of nearly a hundred key works, most exhibited for the first time. In addition to religious vessels, accessories, and commemorative and domestic objects, the exhibition features a unique set of preparatory drawings by the artist, as well as several portraits of patrons and paintings providing further context for Amiot’s life and work.

The exhibition Laurent Amiot: Canadian Master Silversmith is organized by the National Gallery of Canada.

Exhibition

Laurent Amiot: Canadian Master Silversmith
Friday, May 11, 2018 to Sunday, September 23, 2018

Location

National Gallery of Canada
Prints and Drawings Gallery
380 Sussex Drive
Ottawa, ON K1N 9N4
Canada

With Amiot, working in silver was no longer considered a craft, but an art.

– René Villeneuve, curator of early Canadian art

Artwork

The bearer of this letter will be Mr. Laurent Amiot, who has thoroughly learned the art of silversmithing in Paris, who has conducted himself well while there, and whom I entreat you to assist, as far as you are able, in the exercise of his talent.

– Letter from Francois Sorbier de Villars to Abbe Thomas-Laurent Bedard, 1787

Born in Quebec City in 1764, Laurent Amiot made a significant contribution to the evolution of silversmithing in Canada. Here are five things to know about the prolific master craftsperson.

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Laurent Amiot began his apprenticeship as a silversmith in the workshop of his elder brother Jean-Nicolas. Amiot’s keen interest in the craft, and his remarkable ability to work the precious metal, led him to pursue further training in Paris — a first for a Canadian silversmith during the 18th century. When he returned in 1787, Amiot had mastered the art of composition, had acquired impeccable technique, and was familiar with the latest stylistic trends in Europe.

With a valuable letter of recommendation in hand, Amiot set up his practice on the Côte de la Montagne, the main thoroughfare connecting Quebec City’s commercial and institutional sectors at the time. Like many silversmiths, he built his business by repairing, restoring and polishing damaged items. His clients noticed his talent, and were soon entrusting him with larger commissions. In order to meet the growing demand, Amiot brought in apprentices, using several artisans for specialized tasks.

Amiot was deeply involved in his community. He was a member of the Quebec Fire Society, provided his expertise during an inquiry into the wreck of the Atlas in the St. Lawrence River, and served as a churchwarden for the cathedral. In 1790, with François Baillargé, he also signed a petition to the governor, which called for the establishment of a university in Quebec City.

Aware of the value and exceptional quality of his work, by 1816, Amiot was billing himself as a “Maître es Art Orfèvre” (Master Silversmith). He even replaced the word “métier” (craft) with “Art d’orfèvrerie” (the art of silversmithing) in the employment contract of one of his apprentices.

Amiot’s reputation extended far beyond Quebec City and its environs. In 1919, the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, England, became the first museum in the world to add a work by the artist to its collection.

Maker’s mark of Laurent Amiot, 1811–39. Photo: NGC

Amiot Activity Space

Every day, throughout the summer, kids and families can explore Laurent Amiot’s creative process. Design your own teapot or cup using rubbing plates then add your favourite patterns and symbols!

Located at the entrance to the Prints and Drawings Gallery and included with Gallery admission.

Featured Videos

Tureen: Laurent Amiot

The Hertel De Rouville family tureen is probably the best-know Canadian silversmith piece in Canada and abroad. René Villeneuve, curator of early Canadian art, explains why.

Religious Patronage: Laurent Amiot

The patronage of the Catholic Church played an important role in the success of Laurent Amiot’s career. Learn more with René Villeneuve, curator of early Canadian art.

Laurent Amiot: Cup Presented to George Taylor

In 1827, Lord Dalhousie presided over the launch of the Kingfisher in Quebec City. To mark the event, he presented the owner of the shipyard with a silver cup by Laurent Amiot.

Laurent Amiot: Biography

Who was Laurent Amiot? Find out more about the Canadian master silversmith with René Villeneuve, curator of early Canadian art.

Laurent Amiot: a preview

Admire the beautiful details of selected works on view in the exhibition.

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Explore the life and work of Laurent Amiot, Canadian Master Silversmith