Ernest Dumonthier, “Le Style Empire 3éme Série”, pl. 34, illustrating a photo of the petit salon in the Paul Marmottan Collection, showing on the far wall beside a classical statue a very similar wall-light with what appears to be six lights. Hans Ottomeyer and Peter Pröschel, “Vergoldete Bronzen”, 1986, p. 356, pl. 5.10.4, illustrating a watercolour (now in the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris) from the studio of André-Antoine Ravrio for a very similar wall-light and pl. 5.10.5, illustrating a comparable seven-light wall-light by Ravrio supplied by him to the Grand Trianon at Versailles in 1813. Jean-Pierre Samoyault, “Musée National du Château de Fontainebleau, Catalogue des collections de Mobilier, vol I Pendules et bronzes d’ameublement entrés sous le Premier Empire”, 1989, p. 140, no. 112, illustrating one of a pair of five-light wall-lights of almost identical design by Thomire et Duterme et Cie, delivered to the Palais de Fontainebleau in 1809. And colour pl. p. 35 and p. 141, no. 113, illustrating one of a pair of five-light wall-lights by Thomire et Duterme et Cie delivered to the Palais de Fontainebleau in 1810 of almost identical design. Anne Dion-Tenenbaum, “Les Bronzes d’ameublement du Louvre”, 2004, p. 272, no. 135. Pierre Arizzoli-Clémantel and Jean-Pierre Samoyault, “Le Mobilier de Versailles: Chefs-d’Oeuvre de XIXe Siècle”, 2009, p. 257, no 88, illustrating one of two pairs of gilt bronze seven-light wall-lights by Claude Galle, delivered to the salon de l’Empereur at the Grand Trianon, Versailles in December 1809. Marie-France Dupuy-Baylet, “L’Heure le Feu la Lumière, Les Bronzes du Mobilier national, 1800-1870”, 2010, pp. 72-73, illustrating a five-light wall light of almost identical form delivered by Claude Galle to the petit salon du Petit Trianon in December 1809.
A superb pair of Empire gilt bronze five-light wall-lights attributed to Pierre-Philippe Thomire, each in the form of a winged putto with curly hair, a bare top, wearing arm bands and holding aloft a basket formed as a flower head with a rosette to the underside, the basket issuing five candle branches comprising firstly a central upright trumpet-shaped one cast with a ring of lotus leaves below a ring of acanthus and anthemion below a gadrooned and foliate nozzle, secondly four surrounding elaborately scrolling acanthus-wrapped candle branches with lotus leaf and rosette scrolls each terminating in a circular drip-pan cast on the underside with stiff leaves and rosettes below a vase-shaped nozzle, the putto’s torso emerging from a boldly scrolled acanthus leaf backplate
Paris, date 1809-10
Height 60 cm. each.
These magnificent Empire wall-lights compare to several examples made by the preeminent fondeur-ciseleur Pierre-Philippe Thomire (1751-1843). In November 1809 his firm Thomire-Duterme et Cie supplied almost identical gilt bronze five-light wall-lights to the Palais de Fontainebleau comprising one pair for the Emperor’s bedroom on the first floor and three pairs for the grand salon in the Empress’s petit appartement on the ground floor, referred to as: Mémoire du 18 novembre 1809: Chambre à coucher... une paire de bras représentant un enfant terminé par des feuilles à ornements lequel tient dans ses mains au-dessus de la tête un fleuron d’où sortent cinq branches avec feuilles et rinseaux d'ornements, tout ce qui compose les dits bras en bronze ciselé et doré au mat ainsi que les enfans... 800. 2 et grand sallon... trois paires de bras représentant un enfant terminé par une feuille à ornement lequel tient dans ses mains au dessus de la tête un fleuron d’où sortent cinq branches avec feuilles et rinseaux d’ornements, tout ce qui compose les dits bras en bronze ciselé et doré au mat ainsi que les enfans à 800...2400. All the above pairs had near identical putti emanating from an acanthus leaf backplate and again an identical basket, shaped as a flower head, with a rosette on its base. However, the candle branches differed slightly from the present examples; those on the wall-lights for the Emperor’s room were acanthus-wrapped and had additional lotus leaf scrolls but without a central rosette however the single upright candle branch differed. In contrast the scrolled branches on the wall-lights delivered to the Empress’s salon did not have additional applied foliate scrolls though the casting on the central upright trumpet-shaped branch was identical to that on the present example.
In 1810, Thomire’s firm supplied two other very similar pairs of wall-lights to Fontainebleau for the bedrooms of the prince’s appartements no. 1 and 2. In addition four pairs of near identical pure gilt bronze five-light wall-lights attributed to Thomire, were more recently offered at Christie’s New York, 2nd November 2000, lots 128 and 129, by a member of the royal house di Savoia Genoa having formerly been owned by Princess Lydia d’Arenberg di Genoa, Palace d’Arenberg, Belgium where they were almost certainly delivered to in circa 1809.
Thomire’s contemporary fondeur-ciseleur Claude Galle (1759-1815) also created remarkably similar wall-lights for the Imperial palaces. Among them was a pair with six lights which he delivered to the petit salon du the Petit Trianon at a cost of 680 francs on 23rd December 1809 (illustrated by Dupuy-Baylet, op. cit., p. 73). As here they are solely in gilt bronze but the scrolled candle branches, in the form of hunting horns are lacking the acanthus wraps as well as the foliate and rosette scrolls, however the lotus leaf and rosette casting at their tops as well as the central upright branch compare closely to the present examples. Galle’s wall lights remained in the petit salon du the Petit Trianon until they were removed by the Garde-Meuble in 1876.
Another pair of six-light wall-lights now in the Petit Trianon (and sharing the same inventory number as Galle’s pair) was delivered by Galle’s exact contemporary André-Antoine Ravrio (1759-1814) to Château de Rambouillet for the salon de l’Impératrice, on 19th July 1809. Original priced at 1000 francs and subsequently reduced to 900 francs, they remained at Rambouillet until 1832 when they were removed by the Garde-Meuble and then sent to the Petit Trianon. The inventories of 1833 and 1839 note that at that period they hung in the dining room in the grands appartements of the duc and duchesse d’Orléans. Interestingly there is a watercolour of about 1810 by Ravrio (now in the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris) for a wall-light of very similar design. Furthermore, in 1813 Ravrio supplied another comparable pair of wall-lights via the Garde-Meuble to Emperor Napoleon’s private cabinet in the Grand Trianon at Versailles, where they still remain. Dupuy-Baylet also notes that there are a pair of wall lights identical to those in the Petit Trianon in the Musée du Louvre (inv. OA 11908; see Dion-Tenenbaum, op. cit., p. 272, no. 135).
Despite the similarities between the different models made by Thomire, Galle and Ravrio, the present wall-lights are attributed to Thomire, not only because of their individual style, their superior quality but also that Thomire so often included rosettes within his designs which we can see here, among the lotus leaf scrolls. As the leading fondeur-ciseleur during the Empire period, Pierre-Philippe Thomire created an array of bronzes for the imperial family and their associates to include numerous light fittings as well as vases, urns, centre-pieces, clock cases and other luxury items. 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 up his own workshop in 1776. Famed for his production of finely chased gilt bronze objets de luxe, of which a large quantity was 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, clock cases and monumental Greek and Roman style urns and vases. 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. His business was continued by his two sons-in-law and then his grandsons up until 1852 though Thomire’s legacy has continued for much longer.