From an important private German collection.
Hans Ottomeyer and Peter Pröschel, "Vergoldete Bronzen", 1986, p. 328, pl. 5.2.2, illustrating one of the present candelabra when in the collection of the same important private German collector as cited above, and noting that a related drawing of these candelabra appears in Thomire's album of 1817, now in the Stockholm Nationalmuseum. And on the same page, pl. 5.2.1, illustrating two closely related studies from a detail of a sheet of designs by Charles Percier for furnishings for Joséphine Bonaparte's boudoir at Château de Saint Cloud, circa 1802, now in the Metropolitan Museum, New York. And p. 329, pl. 5.2.4, illustrating another similar pair of ten-light candelabra à la Victoire by Thomire of circa 1810 in the Metropolitan Museum, New York.
A very important pair of Empire gilt bronze six-light candelabra by Pierre-Philippe Thomire, after a design by Charles Percier, each with the figure of a winged Victory wearing diaphanous robes holding aloft a ring issuing five scrolling foliate branches and centred by a conforming upright branch, the beautiful figures standing with one foot upon a foliate cast pedestal with a domed top upon a rectangular plinth cast with an ornately decorated lyre on each side on a stepped square base
Paris, date circa 1810
Height 101 cm. each.
Rarely does one have the opportunity to offer such exceptionally fine works as these. Pierre-Philippe Thomire (1751-1843), whose name has become almost synonymous with such imposing candelabra à la Victoire, was without doubt the greatest fondeur-ciseleur of his day, whose quality of casting, chasing and finish was matched by the grace and elegance of his free flowing figures. We cannot however credit him with the design for these candelabra, which in fact were adapted by Charles Percier (1764-1838) from original ancient Roman prototypes.
In addition to those in the Metropolitan Museum, related pairs by the same preeminent bronzier can be found at the Royal Pavilion Brighton, the exotic seaside residence designed and furbished for the Prince Regent of England. Closely related pairs were also supplied to Château de Fontainebleau in 1804 for the salon de l'Impératrice (J. P. Samoyault, "Pendules et Bronzes d'Ameublement Entrés sous le Premier Empire", 1989, p. 156, no. 133) as well as those in the Château museum, which though featuring similar figures have differently shaped candle branches and a triangular plinth (illustrated Ottomeyer, op. cit. p. 330, pl. 5.2.7); a further related pair of candelabra was sold from Sheringham Hall, Norfolk in October 1986.
Thomire, who was born in Paris, began his training under the sculptors Jean-Antoine Houdon and Augustin Pajou at the Académie St. Luc, Paris and then followed his father's profession as a fondeur-ciseleur. His career was advanced when he studied under the great fondeur-doreur, Pierre Gouthière, from whom he acquired the most refined skills in chasing and gilding, in particular matt gilding 'dorure au matt', to produce a subtle grainy satin-like finish. By the late eighteenth century Thomire had achieved considerable renown, having enjoyed the patronage of Louis XVI. Fortunately his position was not jeopardised during the Revolution since he prudently turned to the manufacture of arms and ammunition. After the reign of Terror he returned to making decorative bronzes and thereafter enjoyed the patronage of Napoleon and subsequently the restored Bourbon monarchy as well as foreign royalty and aristocracy.
Appointed a maître-fondeur in 1772, he set up his own business in 1776 following a collaboration with Jean-Louis Prieur in the decoration of Louis XVI's coronation coach. Other royal commissions followed, for instance he supplied gilt bronze chenets with flaming urns and sphinxes for the Louvre in 1786. Having assisted in the making of the mounts for the Sèvres Grands Vases (Musée du Louvre, Paris and Pitti Palace Florence), in 1783 he succeeded Jean-Claude-Thomas Duplessis as chief supplier of mounts for Sèvres, which was an important post and assured Thomire's future. His pre-Revolutionary success was to be eclipsed by his fame during the Empire; in 1806 Thomire became the first bronzier to be awarded a gold medal at the Exposition des Produits de l'Industrie. He won another gold 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, monumental Greek shaped urns and clock cases.
Whilst a substantial proportion of his work was commissioned by the Imperial household Thomire was involved in a number of collaborative projects, for instance in 1811 he worked with the Imperial goldsmith, J-B-C Odiot in the making of the cradle for the King of Rome after a design by P-P Prud'hon (Schatzkammer, Vienna) and also made bronze mounts for another Imperial cradle (Fontainebleau). In addition he provided a number of fine gilt bronze mounts to the leading ébénistes, such as G. Benneman, F. Schwerdfeger and particularly to A. Weisweiler.
Like many Parisian trades, the firm encountered financial difficulties due Napoleon's continuing wars. In an attempt to avoid disaster Thomire was given a special dispensation to trade with the English Prince Regent but despite this his firm is believed to have declared bankruptcy in 1813. 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 up until 1852 though Thomire's legacy has continued for much longer.