Original Gault Limoges clay miniature houses were manufactured from the mid 1980’s to mid 2000’s, depicting Paris and Provence. Pepin-Architecture has purchased the Gault-France.com domain with two key objectives in mind:
- Preserve historical information about these wonderful miniatures (see initial information below)
- Be a central point for Original Gault collectors worldwide to share their passion
If you have any comments or questions, please use the Contact page to reach us. French-speaking collectors: Nous parlons français aussi!
“The magic of Gault houses was born from the combination of the talents of 2 brothers: Jean Pierre; architect, painter and sculptor, and Dominique; designer and businessman. Master-craftsmen, sculptors and ceramists joined them to develop this original art: The creation or unique pieces, entirely hand-made. Unique in the world, this new handcrafted technique was set up by Jean Pierre Gault to make his work of art come true. The starting point: a Limoges clay specially elaborated for this production technique in which the house’s volume will take shape. All the tools, instrument and stamps allowing the creation of a house were created by the Master-craftsmen of the studio. More than 3000 stamps sculpted by artists were used. Two months were needed to produce a house through 14 manufacturing stages. Sculpting of roofs, shaping and modelling of balconies, pavements…Natural drying, firing at 700°C; rinse-bath with oxides, painting, patina, dust removal, cold enameling at 1000°C and shop-fronts miniaturising. All those stages were necessary to produce a piece finally worthy of seal of Gault. The world of Gault: the charm weaves its spell.”
The following is historical information about the Gault miniature houses based on research of various internet sources and articles in France newspapers.
The beginning (Early 1980’s)
Jean Pierre Gault is an architect and an artist, primarily a painter. In the early 1980’s, Jean Pierre decided to combine his architect and artist skills by creating miniature houses. In a newspaper article, Dominique Gault stated that Jean-Pierre initially worked with a ceramic artist from Vallauris, France, named Jean Derval (1925-2010). In fact the following sets of miniatures houses depiction Provence and Paris dating from the early 1980’s are credited to Jean Derval, with Jean Pierre as the editor in a book where the photo appeared.
It it unclear if Jean Derval was involved very long as I have not found mentions of him from the mid-1980’s and forward. On February 27, 1984, Jean Pierre filed for his first brand name called “LES COMPAGNONS DE ST PAUL”, with a logo depicting a hand holding a miniature building. St Paul references St Paul de Vence, France.
I have however never found any products bearing that brand. The earliest pieces I found have the following inscription on the bottom:
On July 23, 1985, Jean Pierre Gault registered a second brand called “Jean Pierre Gault”, with the word “Gault” in the signature style that eventually became the logo and the stamp on all the pieces.
Less than three weeks later on August 9, 1985, Jean Pierre Gault registered a third brand called “ARCHIMINI”, a short for Architecture Miniature. There was no logo associated with this brand but seemed to have a business purpose and was re-registered for another 10 years by his brother Dominique when Jean Pierre’s registration expired on August 9, 1995, making it valid until 2005.
The Gault Ceramic Houses (1980’s-1990’s)
Jean Pierre’s brother, Dominique, was the entrepreneur type person with business experience. It is unclear when he started getting involved, but together with Jean Pierre as the architect/artist they built a business and opened several Gault boutiques in Provence and Paris. Across the business, the staff of salespeople, sculptors, and other personnel, grew to over 100 employees. At some point, it appears that the main location was the Galerie Architecture Miniature Gault located at 39 Avenue de L’Opéra, Paris, at the bottom right of the building:
Eventually, all Gault boutiques closed however for the above location became Boutique Soizick which according to my research was owned by Dominique Gault and managed by his wife Dorothée. Boutique Soizick sold art of ceramic and other materials, and also sold the Gault houses. This is where I personally discovered the Gault houses during a visit to Paris in 2009. I will expand on this topic in the next section covering the years 2000’s and 2010’s. In the US, a distributor called Planet-Gault as well as the France pavilion of the Epcot Center in Orlando, Florida, sold the Gault houses until some point in the 2000’s.
For a long time I was under the impression that Jean Pierre Gault only created miniature houses of Provence and Paris, which was quite wrong. I read in a few places that Japanese tourists were very fond of the Gault houses so I performed some deeper internet searches through Japanese sites. I discovered that a lady name Natsuyo Nogawa wrote a book titled Gault-House Miniature Ceramics published in 1991, which I was able to find and purchase but they are quite hard to find.
The book is a gold mine of information and photos. She met and interviewed Jean Pierre and Dominique. Here’s is a photo of them circa 1990, with Dominique on the left and Jean Pierre on the right:
The biggest revelation to me in this book is the 8 regions or cities, along with the details of the sets of buildings within these regions or cities that Jean Pierre created. They are: Provence, Paris, Alsace, London, Amsterdam, Rome, Venice, and San Francisco:
Jean Pierre creates sets for each of the series above. Here are two examples of the sets for Paris and San Francisco:
It is unclear if Jean Pierre created more regions or cities after the publication of this book. From Internet searches, some people selling Gault pieces referred to them as “Tuscany”, but I have not yet confirmed that Jean Pierre added this region. Looking at the pieces being sold, it seems to me that they could belong to the Provence or Rome series.
Another key piece of information from the book was the fact that it appears that each model of a house has differences; the shape of the building is the same but the windows, doors, chimneys, and other aspect varied. According to my research and the book, each house was entirely hand-made by Jean Pierre or one of this craftsmen; no molds were used. This is what makes the ceramic houses special – each piece was unique. Here’s the picture from the book illustrating the variations within one house model:
Knowing this, I looked at the Gault ceramic pieces that I own and realized that I own two versions of the same model in my Paris collection and in my Provence collection. As you can see from the photo below, they have the same shape but vary significantly in the other aspects.
The Gault Resin Houses (2000’s-2010’s)
Early 2000’s marked significant changes, primarily the purchase of the GAULT brand name by Enesco France. As previously mentioned, in 1995 Dominique Gault took over the ARCHIMINI brand, and I believe the GAULT brand as well. Around 2002, Dominique sold the business to Enesco France and became a General Manager for Enesco France. I believe it is around this timeframe that the production of Gault houses in resin began, but I am not sure if the sale to Enesco France is what triggered the production of resin houses, or if it was already in the plans in order to mass produce the pieces and lower the cost of production. Note however that only the houses from the Provence and Paris series were produced in resin, and are still produced and available to purchase today under the name J Carlton, an Enesco France brand.
While the focus of this history is on the houses, it is important to mention that metal figurines, vehicles, and other small pieces are still produced today. I am not certain when these were introduced for sale. None of them appear in the 1991 book, so my belief is that they became available in the late 1990’s or early 2000’s.
Now, to be clear the product of resin houses did not stop the production of ceramic houses. As mentioned previously, I visited the Boutique Soizick, Paris, in 2009 and they offered both the ceramic and the resin houses. Here are photos of the boutique from the outside and the inside. The ceramic house were at the point know as “Gault Original”, seen in the shelves on the right. The resin houses are in the shelves on the left, which are a little bit smaller in scale.
One of the boutique’s street windows showcased the miniature scenes, both resin and ceramic:
At the time of visit at the boutique, the Euro currency was quite high and the ceramic piece came at a hefty price. After my trip to France, I inquired about a specific Paris ceramic building (Cafe de la Paix, at a price of 224 Euros). I was told that the artist can be commissioned still to make it, and it would take 2-3 months.
The End of the Gault Ceramic Houses (2010-Today)
In August 2010, I received a broadcast email from Dominique Gault stating that after two years of closure of the Gault workshop due to expensive production costs, the production and sale of Gault houses was starting again, with new products available at the Soizick boutique. Sadly however, the Soizick boutique closed sometime around 2014.
As mentioned earlier, today the resin pieces (houses of Provence and Paris) as well as the figurines, vehicles and other items are available under J Carlton by Enesco France. The resin pieces are nice, but of course they are items of mass production using molds so they do not have the unique aspects of the ceramic pieces.
It does not appear that Jean Pierre Gault produces any ceramic houses at this point.
The Gault ceramic (also known as Gault Limoges) can be sometimes be found on the Internet from collectors selling them, estate sales, etc. The Provence pieces tend to be the easiest to find, as Jean Pierre probably produced more of them than the other series, followed by Paris pieces. The other six series are harder to come across, but I did manage to find some pieces from the London, Venice and San Francisco collections, and I continually look for them.
The ceramic pieces have the GAULT stamp on the buildings (usually the back or a side), like the one shown in the photo on the left. If you hold a ceramic piece and a resin piece of similar size, the ceramic piece will be heavier. Ceramic pieces however are more fragile and can chip easier than resin pieces.
The resin pieces typically have a number printed on the underside of the piece, along with J Carlton or J Carlton by Dominique GAULT, like this one:
Jean Pierre Gault was in interviewed on a France television show called La Grande Emission that aired on March 4, 2016, where he talked about his miniature houses and brought sample pieces. Today he focuses on his paintings and other artwork in his home town of Villeneuve-Loubet, France. As for Dominique Gault and his wife Dorothée, today they own and operate a business name France Haie specializing in artificial hedges, also in Villeneuve-Loubet, France.