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An impressive pair of patinated and gilt bronze four-light early French Empire candelabra in the form of Victories carrying torches, attributed to Thomire. Victory holds a flaming torch in each hand while her head supports an intricately detailed bouquet of lights with heads of griffins, palmettes, flower heads and acanthus. She wears a classical robe which subtly outlines the female form. This model is commonly attributed to Pierre-Philippe Thomire, one of the greatest bronziers of the time. This superior pair of candelabra is of important size and the quality of making and the superbly detailed chiseling are befitting for this pair which is in excellent original condition with it’s beautiful mercury gilding.
One of the first things to notice is the sculpture of Victory, with a dark patina of excellent quality, which is of a relatively impressive size. It shows the exquisite quality of chiseling of this pair in details like the hair and the clothes. The Victories stand on quadrangular pedestals with very detailed ornamentation of an Athenian tripod fire bowl with caduceus and two interlaced snakes on the front and female figures carrying a fire on the sides. The caduceus is an attribute of Mercury or Hermes in Antiquity, it is the symbol of peace, eloquence and trade. Finally, a quadrangular base with ornamentation of palmettes supports the candelabra.
A similar pair with three branches from the collection of Pauline Borghese, which is now in the British Embassy in Paris, was purchased in 1815 by the Duke of Wellington. Further examples are in Schloss Homburg, made for king Jérôme of Westphalia, the youngest brother of Napoleon. A third pair can be found in the Palacio Real de Aranjuez, near Madrid.
These candelabra are inspired by the projects of Charles Percier and François-Léonard Fontaine, famous architects of the Emperor. Their most important work entitled “Recueil de décorations intérieures”, was published in France at the end of 18th century. It created a style which dominated the European decorative arts during the first half of the 19th century. Winged Victories, caduceus and griffons are some elements which reveal the assimilation of their ornamental vocabulary by the bronze founders of their time.
This magnificent pair of early French Empire candelabra is in an excellent state of preservation with their original mat and shiny mercury gilding.
Paris, circa 1805.
Dimensions: 70 cm high, 25 cm wide and 20 cm deep. Size of the base: 12.5 x 12.5 cm.
Pierre-Philippe Thomire (1751-1843)
Pierre-Philippe Thomire was a French sculptor, who became the most prominent producer of ornamental patinated and gilt-bronze objects and furniture mounts in the First French Empire period. Although trained as a sculptor, Thomire decided to follow his father into the profession of bronze caster. He had received his training in the workshop of Pierre Gouthière, the outstanding Parisian ciseleur-doreur working in the Louis XVI style, before establishing his own shop in 1776.
In 1804 Thomire acquired the business of the marchand-mercier, Martin-Eloi Lignereux. The company employed a large workforce in a workshop at rue Boucherat and a showroom at rue Taitbout. From there Thomire retailed a large range of decorative objects inspired by antiquity including candelabra, extravagant centrepieces, clock cases and monumental Greek and Roman style urns and vases.
Pierre-Philippe Thomire was the greatest craftsman of his age to work in gilt bronze. He was patronised by Louis XVI, Napoleon and Louis XVIII as well as foreign monarchy and aristocracy. Thomire’s fame and notoriety was then propelled to even greater heights after the Revolution when in 1806 he became the first bronzier to be awarded a gold medal at the Exposition des Produits de l’Industrie. In 1809 he won another gold medal and was also appointed ciseleur de l’Empereur. In addition to Napoleon himself, Thomire was patronised by the Emperor’s family and many foreign royal courts. Because of the large number of pieces Thomire supplied to the palaces, his firm became fournisseur de leurs majestés (Furniture Suppliers to their Majesties) two years later. His work represents some of the finest examples of the Empire design.
At the height of his business, it is estimated that Thomire employed six or seven hundred workers. Thomire retired from his firm in 1823.
- Comparable pairs are in the collection of the Mobilier National in Paris, inv. nr. GML-134-001/2 and GML-6484-001/2.
- H. Ottomeyer and P. Pröschel, “Vergoldete Bronzen”, Munich, 1986, p. 328, fig. 5.2.1 and 5.2.2.
- Christie’s, New York February 2003, where an identical pair appeared in auction.
- Osenat, Fontainebleau December 2020, where an identical pair appeared in auction.
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8 500 €