Pierre-Philippe Thomire French, 1731-1843

The Parisian, Pierre-Philippe Thomire was one of the greatest craftsmen to work in gilt bronze. He was patronised by the Louis XVI, Napoleon, Louis XVIII and Charles X as well as the English monarchy and European aristocracy Thomire had initially trained as a sculptor under Houdon and Pajou at the Academic St. Luc, but then followed his father's profession as fondeur-ciseleur. He studied under the great fondeur-doreur, Pierre Gouthière (1732-C.1812), from whom he acquired the most refined skills in chasing and gilding, in particular matt gilding "dorure au mat", to produce a subtle grainy satin-like finish. Thomire was appointed a maitre fondeur, 1772, setting up his own business in 1776. In the same year he collaborated in the decoration of the coronation coach for Louis XVI, which was followed by other royal commissions including gilt bronze fire dogs with flaming urns and sphinxes, 1786 for the Louvre. In 1788 he supplied a Louis XVI style fire grate and pair of columns to an English gentleman, purchased in 1987 by the Victoria and AlbertMuseum, London.


During the Revolution, Thomire prudently turned to the manufacture of arms and ammunition but returned to decorative bronzes after the Consulate and was soon employing 800 men. His pre-Revolutionary success was subsequently overshadowed by his fame during the Empire, when he supplied substantial commissions to the Imperial court and was appointed ciceleur de 1'Empereur, 1809. His works proved to be some of the purest and finest expression of the Empire style (promoted by Pierre Fontaine and Charles Percier), including Thomire's Vase de Marriage de 1'Empereur (Versailles) and other monumental Greek shaped urns delicately modelled with crisp foliage and figures in low relief or candelabra supported by winged Victories. In 1811, Thomire collaborated with Odiot in the making of a cradle for the King of Rome, designed by Proud'hon (Schatzkammer, Vienna). Thomire also worked the bronze for another Imperial cradle (Fontainebleau). After the Restoration, Thomire enjoyed the patronage of the Bourbons and was awarded the Legion d'Honneur by Louis-Philippe.


Thomire engaged upon a number of collaborations, due as much to the unparalled quality of his castings as to the pre-Revolutionary guild restrictions upon furniture porcelain and clockmakers. Thomire was employed by Sevres to produce fine ornamental pieces, including a pair of classical vases with ormolu mounts for Louis XVI, 1782 (purchased by George IV, 1812). He also specialised in clock cases in Sevres porcelain and bronze, with movements by the best clockmakers such as Robert Robin, 1788 (Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris). After the Revolution Thomire produced a number of bronze and gilt bronze clock cases, with compositions based upon neoclassical sculptural groups or paintings, such as his Rape of the Sabines clock, inspired by Jacques Louis David's painting, 1799. At other times he included Greek heroes, featured in the Apollo clock or Father Time who carries a clock upon his shoulder (both purchased by George IV). In addition Thomire frequently provided ormolu mounts to the leading furniture makers, including G. Benneman, F. Schwerdfeger and particularly A. Weisweiler. Thomire retired in 1823, though he continued to make sculptures; his firm Thomire et Cie was continued by his two sons.


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