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Empire gilt bronze and mirrored glass two-piece six-light surtout de table
Empire gilt bronze and mirrored glass two-piece six-light surtout de table - Antique Silver Style Empire
Ref : 102115
Period :
19th century
Dimensions :
L. 49.61 inch X l. 25.2 inch
Antique Silver  - Empire gilt bronze and mirrored glass two-piece six-light surtout de table
Richard Redding Antiques

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Empire gilt bronze and mirrored glass two-piece six-light surtout de table

An important Empire gilt bronze and mirrored glass two-piece six-light surtout de table attributed to Thomire et Cie of Paris, of rectangular outline with rounded ends and composed of two sections, the pierced balustrade composed of six outward facing winged putti with butterfly wings, issuing from scrolls and foliage, who hold in each hand a rosette and laurel leaf swag that loops into rosette-studded arabesques with pinecone finials, which in turn are divided by anthemion-shaped mounts, the balustrade enclosing at the two ends and at centre six candelabra of baluster form with a foliate-wrapped foot and surmounted by a vase-shaped nozzle. The bordered frieze cast with laurel leaf sprays centred by a flower head and supported below each of the candelabra by a rectangular plinth mounted with a lotus leaf and raised on winged lion-paw feet, the interior of the plateau fitted with mirrored glass
Paris, date circa 1820
Length 126 cm, width 64 cm.
Literature: Hans Ottomeyer and Peter Pröschel, “Vergoldete Bronzen”, 1986, p. 382, pl. 5.16.2 illustrating a surtout de table by Pierre-Philippe Thomire of circa 1810-14 with a pierced balustrade formed of pairs of half kneeling putti holding vine sprays intersected by pilasters surmounted by classical figures and urns, in the Musée Marmottan, Paris. And p. 388, pl. 5.16.15, illustrating a lithograph numbered 7875 after a design in the Cabinet d’Estampes in the Bibliotèque Nationale, Paris for one of Thomire’s surtouts flanked by classical figures holding swags of fruiting vines punctuated by plinths surmounted by fruit filled tazzas. And p. 388, pl. 5.16.16, illustrating a finished circular surtout after the above design of circa 1830 in Rosenborg Castle, Copenhagen.
Surtouts de table were first introduced in France during the early nineteenth century, when the members of court and the elite, who always enjoyed a long tradition of gastronomy and entertainment, began changing their eating habits. This in turn brought about a modernisation of the dining table. The service à la Française, which was the height of fashion during the eighteenth century, had involved a lavish display of food, served on large platters which remained in the centre of the table throughout the meal. However, when the service à la Russe came into fashion circa 1810, traditionally assumed via the Russian Ambassador Prince Alexander Borisovich Kurakin, food was presented one course at a time. Since individual dishes were served hot, direct from the kitchen, this meant that the central part of the table was left empty of decoration. As a consequence, table ornaments became increasingly more lavish with the surtout de table providing the perfect solution where baskets of bon-bons, fruit and flowers, dishes of sweetmeats and candelabras could be placed along the mirrored glass.
Surtouts de table were only intended for, and could be afforded by, the wealthiest members of society, hence they were lavishly decorated and were made by the finest craftsmen of the day. This example is no exception. Given its quality as well as its style, it was most probably made by the firm of Thomire et Cie, founded by Pierre-Philippe Thomire (1751-1843). The surtout is also very unusual since it incorporates candelabra as an integral part of its decoration. This element was of course very functional but also very rare since it increased the cost of production considerably. The inclusion of candelabra within the design was first used by Thomire’s great rival Claude Galle (1759-1815) who designed and made a comparable surtout de table with twenty-four lights of circa 1810, which this gallery once had the pleasure of owning. Other similar surtouts de table with integrated candelabra are known, including an example by Thomire, once owned by the de Guigné family of Guignécourt, San Francisco Bay and sold by this gallery as well as another attributed to Thomire, which was sold in Paris by Me Lair-Dubreuil on 3rd April 1911 (lot 105). Another example signed by Thomire is in the Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg while one by Denière & Matelin was made in 1817 for President James Munroe and is still in the White House, Washington. A further comparable surtout, once owned by the Princess of Castel-Rüdenhausen, was offered at Galerie Koller, Geneva 2nd October 2002, lot 1252.
Juliette Niclausse’s biography, “Thomire, fondeur-ciseleur 1751-1843: sa vie, son oeuvre”, 1947, pp. 129-130, lists ten complete and twelve incomplete surtouts de table and individual pieces by Thomire. The largest set, comprising 59 pieces is owned by the Mobilier National, while the Ministère de l’Intérieur and the Ministère de la Guerre both owned other Thomire surtouts. Another made for Napoleon’s brother Prince Lucien Bonaparte is in the Musée de Marmottan, Paris, while a further example owned by the comtes de Pourtalès is now in the Gulbenkian Museum. Prince Demidoff also once owned a Thomire surtout, part of which was purchased in 1880 by the silversmiths, Odiot.
Regarded as one of history’s finest fondeur-ciseleurs, Pierre-Philippe Thomire not only enjoyed the patronage of the Emperor Napoleon and his family but also Louis XVI, Louis XVIII as well as foreign monarchy and aristocracy. Thomire, who was born into a family of ciseleurs, began working with the renowned bronzier Pierre Gouthière as well as Jean-Louis Prieur ciseleur-doreur du roi, before opening up his own workshop in 1776. Famed for his production of finely chased gilt bronze objets de luxe, of which a large quantity was commissioned by the royal household, Thomire frequently collaborated with the marchands-merciers, such as Simon-Philippe Poirier and his successor Dominique Daguerre. In addition, Thomire supplied finely chased mounts to leading ébénistes of his day such as Guillaume Benneman and Adam Weisweiler. Thomire also helped establish his name when working at the Sèvres Porcelain Manufactory, firstly as an assistant to its artistic director Jean-Claude Duplessis in making the factory’s mounts and then following the latter’s death in 1783, he took over Duplessis’s job and in this capacity supplied all the gilt bronze mounts for the factory’s porcelain. His post-Revolutionary success somewhat eclipsed his fame during Louis XVI’s reign and in 1806 he became the first bronzier to be awarded a gold medal at the Exposition des Produits de l’Industrie. He won another gold medal in 1809, in which year he was also appointed ciseleur de l’Empereur.
In response to growing demand Thomire became an associate and then in 1804 purchased the extensive business owned by Martin-Eloi Lignereux, the famous marchand-mercier, formerly associated with Daguerre. Soon his newly named company Thomire-Duterme et Cie was employing a work force of about 800; it had a workshop at rue Boucherat and a showroom at rue Taitbout, from where Thomire retailed a large range of decorative objects inspired by antiquity including extravagant surtouts and centrepieces, candelabra, clock cases and monumental Greek and Roman style urns and vases. Like many Parisian trades, the firm encountered financial difficulties due Napoleon’s continuing wars. Soon after 1815 the partnership with Duterme was dissolved and under its new style, Thomire et Cie thrived once more under the restored Bourbons. 1823 saw Thomire winning a gold medal for sculpture in Paris as well as his retirement from the firm though he continued to produce sculptures and regularly exhibited at the Paris Salon until 1834.

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