Claude Galle

Dates1759 - 1815, master 1786

The son of a French poultry farmer, Claude Galle rose beyond his humble roots to become an important bronze caster and gilder at the end of the 1700s. Galle seems never to have signed his works, however, and as he collaborated with numerous other craftsmen, scholars have difficulties determining his individual style. He had many children, several of whom, like his son Gérard-Jean Galle, joined their father in his workshop. By 1784 Galle had become extremely successful, producing mounts for furniture, clocks, and other objects in gilt bronze for the palaces of Fontainebleau, Versailles, Saint-Cloud, and Compiègne.

After the French Revolution, Galle continued to produce numerous pieces for Napoleon Bonaparte, receiving an order worth more than 65,000 francs for the Château of Saint-Cloud. As many of his clients were slow to pay their bills, however, he fell increasingly into debt. In 1811 he was even forced to write a begging letter to the government asking for its help and protection. He reminded them of the awards he had won, the large family he had to feed, and the four hundred employees who depended on him for their jobs. He died in poverty four years later, having been forced to close his shop.