Important large pair of French Empire candelabra attributed to Thomire

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Rare large pair of French Empire candelabra attributed to Pierre-Philippe Thomire

An impressive large pair of gilt and patinated bronze French Empire candelabra with six lights, attributed to Pierre-Philippe Thomire (1751–1843). The collection of the Museum of Decorative Arts in Paris possesses a pair of candelabra of this very same model (see last photo).

Made after a design by Charles Percier, these candelabra depict winged Victory figures wearing classical robes gathered by a gilded sash. The naturally flowing robes subtly outline the female form of the Victories. They each hold in their hands a candelabrum formed as a vase decorated with winged Zephyr masks. From this vase sprouts a central upright candle branch, finely decorated with leave patterns. It is crowned by a vase shaped candle holder. Surrounding the central branch we see five other  branches of light with foliage scrolls. Each of these lights is terminated by a candle holder with a decorative band of flowers.

Each of the winged Victories balances on one foot upon a sphere resting on a base of palmettes set on a circular patinated bronze pedestal. This pedestal has decorations of faces in profile and again winged Zephyr masks. The whole rests on a stepped square base. Also, Ottomeyer describes another pair of this same model, with a marble base, in the Villa Hardt, Eltville.

The personification of Victory as a winged figure was well known in Antiquity as evidenced by a Roman model showing a very similar figure upon a sphere. This figure is now in the National Art Collection, Kassel. The figure became an integral element within Empire design through the intervention of Charles Percier (1764-1838) and Pierre François Léonard Fontaine (1762-1853). Percier and Fontaine were Napoleon’s most important architects and designers. The design for the present pair of candelabra is believed to have derived from a design by Charles Percier which was successfully exploited by Pierre-Philippe Thomire (1751-1843).

This pair of French Empire candelabra is in an excellent state of preservation.

Details of this pair of French Empire candelabra

Paris, circa 1810.
Dimensions: 86 cm high, 28 cm wide and 30 cm deep. Size of the base: 14 x 14 cm.
Weight: 16.4 kg (for the pair).

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.

Literature

  • Collection Museum of Decorative Arts, Paris, inv. number 21251 B.
  • H. Ottomeyer, P. Proschel et al., ” Vergoldete Bronzen – Die Bronzearbeiten des Spätbarock und Klassizismus“, Munich, 1986, Vol. I, p.307 and p.328, fig. 5.2.1.

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