Hans Ottomeyer and Peter Pröschel, "Vergoldete Bronzen", 1986, p. 277, pl. 4.11.16, illustrating one from a pair of earlier Louis XVI chenets of very similar overall form but with a Medusa and foliate decorations to the sides made by the scupteur Louis-Simon Boizot and fondeurs-ciseleurs Pierre-Philippe Thomire and Claude Galle as well as others, supplied in May 1786 by Jean Hauré to the royal court and now at Château de Versailles. And p. 341, pl. 5.4.6, illustrating a comparable gilt and patinated bronze fender with very similar sphinxes by Pierre-Philippe Thomire, circa 1805 with standards cast with very similar motifs as here, which in addition are flanked by lion masks. Jean-Pierre Samoyault, "Pendules et bronzes d'ameublement entrés sous le Premier Empire; Catalogue des Collections de Mobilier, Musée National du Château de Fontainebleau", 1989, p. 250, no. 247, illustrating one of a pair of unattributed comparable late eighteenth century chenets featuring an almost identical sphinx and similarly shaped base with Medusa heads flanking a classical maiden on fluted toupie feet, which by 1807 was recorded in the palais des Tuileries in the pavillon des Enfants de France, appartement du grand trésorier de la Couronne, premier salon. And p. 252, no. 249, illustrating one of another comparable pair of chenets delivered by André-Antoine Ravrio in 1809 to the bedroom in the appartement de minister no 19 at Fontainebleau and p. 253, nos. 250 and 251, illustrating two further comparable pairs of chenet with sphinxes delivered by Ravrio, the first to the salon du prince Borghèse at the Petit Trianon and the second to the salon de l'appartement de minister 19 at Fontainebleau. "Pavlovsk Les Collections" Ed by Emmanuel Ducamp, 1993, p. 182, illustrating a comparable gilt bronze fire surround with seated sphinxes of circa 1805 at Pavlovsk Palace.
A large and very fine pair of Empire gilt bronze chenets attributed to Pierre-Philippe Thomire, each featuring a seated sphinx wearing a nemes striped headdress with front lion paw feet stretched out and tail tucked around its hind legs upon a stiff leaf banded rectangular base with rounded ends cast on the sides with ribbon-tied winged spiralled cones issuing forked thunder bolts and cast at each end with a rosette framed by scrolls and palmettes, on spiralled toupie legs headed by a stiff leaf band on bun feet
Paris, date circa 1805
Height 36.5 cm, length 40 cm, depth 15 cm. each
The quality and the close similarity in design to the chenets and fender cited above, leave little doubt as to an attribution of the present works to the fondeur-ciseleur Pierre-Philippe Thomire (1751-1843). The design for this pair was based on an earlier pre-Revolution pair of chenets which were supplied in May 1786 by Jean Hauré for the Queen's state bedroom at a cost of 2578 livres. Hauré's account books notes the names of all the different artists and craftsmen involved in their creation namely Louis-Simon Boizot who supplied the model, Thomire who being responsible for the ciselure, cast the Medusa and foliate decorations on the base and Claude Galle who gilded the bronzework; other craftsmen involved included Girard, Chointelle and Boivin.
In 1804 Thomire purchased an extensive business owned by Martin-Eloi Lignereux, the famous marchand-mercier. Renaming his company Thomire-Duterme et Cie, he was soon employing about 800 staff, both at his workshop at rue Boucherat and showroom at rue Taitbout. From there Thomire retailed a large range of decorative objects inspired by antiquity such as grand candelabra, centrepieces, urns, clock cases as well as chenets, fenders and fire surrounds.
The present chenets were made soon after Thomire had purchased Lignereux's business and belong to a group of similar works, comparing for instance to a design for a fender commissioned by the King of Sweden surmounted by armorial motifs, showing at centre a lion mask medallion, flanked by comparable winged spiralled cones issuing thunder bolts (illustrated in Ottomeyer and Pröschel, ibid. p. 340, pl. pl. 5.4.2).
Although scholars and connoisseurs began expressing an interest in the arts of ancient Egypt during the mid eighteenth century it was not until after Napoleon's Egyptian Campaign of 1798 that the wider public began to take notice. The dissemination of this Egyptian style owed much to the illustrated publication in 1802 of "Voyage dans la Basse-et Haute-Egypte" by Baron Dominique Vivant-Denon, who had accompanied Napoleon to Egypt. Denon's work was filled with drawings and etchings of the most typical elements of ornaments, from sphinxes, caryatids, heads and bodies of mummified or stylized Egyptians with bare feet to palm leaves, tripods and rosettes. Although the Retour d'Egypte was not a true and individual style, it served to enrich the classical repertoire with a new exotic taste for decorative elements derived from Egyptian motifs and ornaments and soon became one of the hallmarks of the Empire style.