Paire de bougeoirs Empire, circa 1810

A rare and extremely fine pair of Empire gilt and patinated bronze candlesticks attributed to Pierre-Philippe Thomire based on a design by Percier and Fontaine, each with a vase-shaped nozzle cast with three tiers of acanthus leaves below the circular drip-pan cast with stiff leaves, the milled columnar shaft terminated by a cup of lotus leaves with gadrooning below, above a scrolling foliate foot resting on a triangular-shaped platform with canted corners on a conformingly shaped splayed patinated bronze plinth ornamented on its three sides by gilt bronze mounts incorporating anthemion, rosettes and foliate scrolls, on gilt bronze foliate lion paw feet above a circular stepped base centred by a rosette and cast with three Antique medallions portraying the profile heads of two Roman centurions wearing helmets and a Classical female with her hair worn in coils

Paris, date circa 1810

Height 32 cm, diameter of base 14 cm. each.

This rare pair of Empire candlesticks are of extremely fine quality. Of unusual design, they nevertheless incorporate many elements and motifs found on works of art, especially candelabra and torchères that were made by the preeminent fondeur-ciseleur Pierre-Philippe Thomire (1751-1843). Firstly, the overlapping lotus leaves at the base of the columnar shaft compares with other artefacts made by him. Likewise, he favoured the contrasting use of textures and bronze patinations as seen here. While no other known candlesticks by him feature the same distinctive bases, cast with Classical heads, other of his bronzes feature similar profile heads, for instance two different gilt and patinated bronze clock cases of 1810 surmounted by the figures of Venus and Cupid which are decorated on the frieze base with Classical heads in profile, set as here within a circular wreath border (illustrated in Ottomeyer and Pröschel, op. cit, p. 345, pls. 5.5.11 and 5.5.13).

When it came to design, Thomire often worked in collaboration with or after designs by the architects and ornamentalistes Charles Percier (1764-1838) and Pierre François Léonard Fontaine (1762-1853), who together were instrumental in creating the Empire style for the Emperor Napoleon. In turn Percier and Fontaine had a profound impact on other contemporary artists and craftsmen, especially after they published their Recueil de Décorations Intérieures, Paris, 1801-1812, which includes many designs and motifs that are repeated within the present candlesticks. First and foremost is the columnar shaft which is terminated by a ring of lotus leaves upon a bulbous acanthus leaf foot. Again, medallions incorporating profiles of both male and female busts from Antiquity within circular wreath shaped borders are again common themes and appear in their Recueil, for instanceas part of a design for a ceiling decoration or again as part of an elaborate dressing table (pl. 17), as part of an intricate decoration for a table top featuring four medallions incorporating two female and two male busts (pl. 21); likewise within a design for a chimney piece (pl. 27) as well as a secrétaire à cylinder (pl. 32).

Born into a family of ciseleurs, Thomire began working with the renowned bronzier Pierre Gouthière (1732-1813) as well as Jean-Louis Prieur (b. 1725 d. after 1785) ciseleur-doreur du roi, before opening his own workshop in 1776. Famed for his production of finely chased gilt bronze objets de luxe, of which a large quantity were 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 (maître 1785, d. 1811) and Adam Weisweiler (1744-1820). 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 candelabra, extravagant centrepieces, monumental Greek shaped urns and clock cases. 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. Thereafter his business was continued by his two sons-in-law up until 1852.

LITERATURE

Olivier Lefeuel, “Percier et Fontaine” in “Connaissance des Arts”, Paris, 15th June 1954, no. 28, p. 35, illustrating a page from a set of designs by Charles Percier and Pierre François Léonard Fontaine for the Russian Tsar of work in the Louvre and Tuileries, showing a woman’s bedroom with a torchère, which as here has a columnar shaft terminating in similarly fashioned foliate cup and foot supported on a shaped plinth. Hans Ottomeyer and Peter Pröschel, “Vergoldete Bronzen”, 1986, p. 393, pl. 5.17.11, illustrating a candelabrum of comparable design by Pierre-Philippe Thomire, signed Thomire Paris, of circa 1815 with the shaft terminated by a similarly designed foliate cup and foot. Pierre Arizzoli-Clémentel, “The Percier and Biennais Albums in the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris”, in the “Burlington Magazine”, March 1998, p. 197, pl. 55, illustrating a design for a candelabrum with shaft set into a cup of similar lotus leaves upon a foliate foot above a splayed base by Percier for the Empress Josèphine in the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris.


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