Hans Ottomeyer and Peter Pröschel, "Vergoldete Bronzen", 1986, p. 382, pl. 5.16.1, illustrating an almost identical centrepiece by Thomire, originally owned by Comtes de Pourtalès; now in the Gulbenkian Museum, Lisbon.
A superb and very rare Empire gilt bronze figural centrepiece attributed to Pierre-Philippe Thomire (1751-1843)
Paris, date circa 1810
Height 70 cm.
With the exception of details on the basket and additional central urn between the two pedestals the Gulbenkian centrepiece is identical to this work, as are two other centrepieces. One was possibly given by Napoleon and Joséphine to her niece, Stephanie de Beauharnais to the Grand Duke of Baden, the other was supplied to Napoleon's brother, Joseph Bonaparte, King of Naples.
The change of eating habits in the early eighteenth century resulted in a modernisation of the dining table. The 'service à la française', which was the height of fashion during the eighteenth century had involved a lavish display of food, served on large platters which remained in the centre of the table throughout the meal. However courses were served separately when the 'service à la russe' came into fashion circa 1810. This left a space in the middle of the table, which was perfectly filled by elaborate centrepieces such as this.