Because it was handmade, copper repoussé was popular during the Arts and Crafts movement
Your copper repoussé artist-signed plaques are a nice example of copper work from the early 1900s. Repoussé is a French term meaning “pushed up,” which describes the technique that an artisan would use to shape and hammer a sheet of metal. Using a variety of tools and forms, the artisan could create raised designs and sculptures. Common metals used in repoussé works are gold, silver, tin, brass, copper and pewter.
Repoussé metal work has a long history dating back to the Romans and Greeks who used fanciful armor in battle and ceremony. Pieces were also made into tableware, jewelry, religious iconography, sculpture and decorative art.
Repoussé work regained popularity during the Arts and Crafts movement that began in the late 1800s in Europe and spread to North America. The Arts and Crafts movement revitalized traditional craftsmanship, emphasizing simplicity and the making of things by hand. The hammered patterns and indentations created in forming a piece were emphasized to celebrate that an item was, in fact, made by hand and not mass-manufactured.
Your copper plaques are artist-signed by Albert Gilles. Born in Paris in 1895, Gilles was taught metalworking at an early age. In the 1930s, he came to America where he worked as a designer and artisan. He traveled across the country for work and his clients included celebrities such as Walt Disney and Mae West. Gilles eventually settled in Canada, where he specialized in copper work. There he executed many commissions for churches and also helped to design and maintain the copper roof at Chateau Frontenac in Quebec City. He taught metalwork to his family and the tradition continues today; although Gilles passed away in 1979, his descendants currently maintain a gallery in Quebec.
Your vintage copper repoussé plaques of a squirrel and horse are a nice example of Albert Gilles work and retain a nice patina (I recommend that you do not polish them). I would value the pair at $90.
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Send a photo to bcoles@nhmagazine. If there are markings, please take a clear photo of them as well. If your submission is selected, we’ll have expert Jason Hackler appraise it. Hackler, manager/owner of New Hampshire Antique Co-op in Milford and partner of Jason Samuel Antiques, is a past officer of the Granite State Antique and Appraisers Association, a principal of the Active Appraisal Group and a member of the NH Antique Dealers Association.