This impressive museum quality Directory period mantel clock with Bacchus is attributed to top bronzier Pierre-Philippe Thomire (1751-1843). It dates from the end of the 18th century or beginning of the 19th century, most likely the period of the French Directory (1795-1799). A clock of this same model is also in the collections of the Masséna Museum in Nice and the Mobilier National in Paris.
The gilt and patinated bronze Directory period mantel clock depicts Bacchus and his thyrsus. It is clearly from the hands of a top bronzier like Pierre-Philippe Thomire. Bacchus is the Roman god of wine, who is known to the Greeks under the name Dionysos. In Greek mythology he is also the father of theater and tragedy. The god often holds a thyrsus in his hand, surrounded by vines and ivy and surmounted by a pine cone. This thyrsus can cause vines or ivy to spring up and it represents a symbol of prosperity and fertility. Other symbols that we usually associate with Bacchus are the panther, the donkey, the goat, the ivy, the vine and a bunch of grapes.
Bacchus sits on top of the case which contains the clockwork, placed on two patinated bronze rocks. In his hand Bacchus holds a lyre and on the ground we also see more musical instruments like a pan flute and a tambourine. Further, on either side of the clockwork case, we see a panther’s head and tail and an amhpora for the wine. The clock rests on an oval base with rounded recesses at the ends, resting on six spinning top feet with knurled decoration. On the facade the base is adorned with a richly decorated bas-relief representing a ‘Céres’ sitting on a chariot drawn by a pair of panthers led by a amor. They are accompanied by bacchantes dancing and playing music. Framing the bas-relief there are two vertical vines. The rounded ends of the base carry decorations of palmettes and flowers.
This mantel clock has an enamel dial carrying the signature “Sauvage à Paris”. Tardy lists Sauvage as a clockmaker who was active in Paris from 1790-1800 in the Rue St-Honoré.
The eight-days going movement has a wire suspension pendulum. It has a twin-barrel movement with count wheel strike on a bell. It strikes the hour and half hour on it’s bell. This Directory clock with Bacchus, attributed to Thomire, is in an exceptional state of preservation, retaining the original mercury gilding. The clockwork is in perfect working condition and has recently been serviced by a professional clock maker. The clock comes complete with its pendulum, key and bell.
France, Directory period 1795-1799.
Dimensions: 56 cm high, 44 cm wide and 14 cm deep.
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.
- Collection Mobilier National, Paris, inventory number GML-4591-000.
- Collection of the Masséna Museum in Nice.
- Tardy, “La pendule française” II, p. 360.
- French Bronze Clocks, Elke Niehüser, p.221 #511.
- Tardy, “Dictionnaire des horlogers français”, p. 587-588.
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