A rare pair of Empire gilt bronze seven-light candelabra with brûle-parfums attributed to Pierre-Philippe Thomire, each with an elaborate S-scrolled acanthus wrapped shaft headed by a fluted and foliate-wrapped cornucopia-shaped terminal, at the junction of which and hanging from three chains is a brûle-parfum with a pierced foliate cover and foliate finial above a foliate boss, the cornucopia-shaped terminal supporting an upright candle branch issuing a basket of fruit above which is a single foliate wrapped nozzle and surrounded below by mask heads issuing six scrolling acanthus wrapped branches each terminated by a vase-shaped nozzle, the main scrolled shaft issuing from the tail feathers of a swan whose bent neck echoes the sinuous lines of the conjoined shaft, each swan resting on a cylindrical plinth mounted around the sides by ribbon-tied foliate swags hung from flaming torches interspersed by crossed arrows within foliate wreaths, the plinths on a stepped base with stiff leaf and rosette borders
Paris, date circa 1815-20
Height 90 cm.
The quality and style of the finely chaste bronze work would suggest that these wonderful candelabra were made by the renowned fondeur-ciseleur Pierre-Philippe Thomire (1751-1843) who, patronised by Louis XVI and later by Napoleon and his Imperial court, headed one of the very finest firms of bronziers during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Not only highly original they epitomise the taste of the late Empire period when the forms and decoration of previous years became bolder and more flamboyant. The overall design is cleverly conceived so that the overtly scrolled lines of the conjoined shaft, the candle branches and the swans’ necks are counterbalanced by the vertically hanging brûle-parfums.
Swans became an important motif within the decorative arts from the Consulate onward. The Empress Joséphine particularly admired these birds and ordered a number of black swans from the Bass Straits for the park at Malmaison while inside the palace, her bedroom suite included a gilded bed with cornucopias and swans at its feet. Swans also adorned a bed made for Madame Récamier which, designed by Louis-Martin Berthault, was made by Jacob-Desmalter circa 1799 (Musée du Louvre). Swans were also incorporated into the decorative motifs at Hôtel de Beauharnais for Prince Eugène in 1803. Classical writers considered that the swan loved music and uttered a beautiful song at its death. It was perhaps for this reason that it became associated with Apollo and certain of the Muses, being occasionally an attribute of the Muses Erato and Clio. Furthermore, because of its beauty, swans were attributes of Venus and are sometimes portrayed pulling her chariot. Interestingly these candelabra compare closely to another pair previously sold by Richard Redding Antiques. The latter however had six rather than seven lights while their bases were rectangular and were mounted with porcelain plaques.