Important Pair of Chased, Gilt and Patinated Bronze Three-Light Candelabra, Louis XVI period

Pierre-Philippe Thomire

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Attributed to Pierre-Philippe Thomire The Female Figures after Claude-Michel, known as Clodion Important Pair of Chased, Gilt and Patinated Bronze Three-Light Candelabra Paris, Louis XVI period, circa 1780-1785 Height 110 cm; width of arms: 45cm.

-Sale in Paris, Hôtel Drouot, Me Champetier de Ribes, June 2, 1965, lot 74.
-Acquired at that sale by Ilhamy Hussein Pacha (1908-1992), a wealthy Turkish aristocrat who was married to Princess Chevekiar, the stepmother of King Farouk of Egypt.
-Part of the furnishings of his luxurious home, the “Villa Baia dei Fiori” in Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat.
-Sale of the property of Ilhamy Hussein Pacha, “Villa Baia dei Fiori”, Maîtres Ader-Tajan, Monte-Carlo, March 14, 1993, lot 192.

Made entirely of finely chased patinated and gilt bronze, the candelabra feature a magnificent female figure in antique drapery with a wreath of flowers and leaves on her head, who holds a flower wreath in her hand. She leans against a gadrooned baluster vase whose pedestal foot is adorned with a torus of laurel leaves and seeds and whose belly is decorated with flower swags. The neoclassical cippi supporting the vases have reserves that are decorated with vine leaves and fluting within frames of egg-and-tongue frieze molding. From the vases issue stems that terminate in pinecones, which emerge from acanthus bouquets adorned with two entwined laurel branches and three arabesque light branches that are decorated with foliage and terminate in Egyptian female masks wearing nemes headdresses, and bird’s heads. The finely chased drip pans are in the form of woven baskets containing fruits and adorned with drapery and tassels. The female figures stand upon plinths imitating a rocky terrain with vegetation, which themselves are supported by shaped plinths adorned with scrolling, ribbon-tied laurel branches, beadwork and acanthus leaf friezes. The shaped bases are made of blue turquin marble.

The unusual design of this rare pair of candelabra allows them to be counted among the most elaborate and elegant Parisian creations of the Louis XVI period. The decorative female figures were inspired by a terra cotta statuette, the “Egyptian Woman with Naos”, sculpted in the early 1770’s by the well known French artist Claude-Michel, known as Clodion, during his stay in Rome. That sculpture is today in the Louvre Museum in Paris (see exhibition catalogue Clodion 1738-1814, Musée du Louvre, Paris, March 17 – June 29, 1992, p. 321, catalogue n° 67). Another terra cotta version of the Egyptian Woman with Naos, signed “Clodion” and dated “1782”, was included in the exhibition Angelika Kaufmann und ihre Zeitgenossen, Braganca-Vienna, 1968-1969, catalogue n° 170. The second statuette depicts a figure holding a flower wreath, instead of the parchment roll in the Louvre version, whose arm is draped around a vase placed on a rocky ground. That second terra cotta figure was the model the bronze caster used for the drawing of the present candelabra, whose perfectly balanced design was greatly appreciated by many important Parisian collectors of the mid-1780’s.

Only a few comparable examples are known today; they feature variations in the treatment of the bases and the branches. One pair, which has blue turquin marble bases adorned with gilt scrolling, was formerly in the collection of Sigismond Bardac (sold in Paris, Me Lair-Dubreuil, Galerie Georges Petit, May 10, 1920, lot 69). A second pair, from the Edmond de Rothschild collection, was sold by Christie’s London on July 3, 1975, lot 55. A third pair, which had formerly belonged to Baron Alain de Rothschild, was sold in Paris by Mes Couturier-Nicolay on March 14, 1986, lot 42. A fourth pair, of very good quality though from a later period, is in the Pavlovsk Palace near Saint Petersburg (illustrated in Pavlovsk, Le Palais et le Parc, Editions Alain de Gourcuff, 1993). One further similar pair of candelabra, with figures signed “Clodion”, is in the Cleveland Museum of Art (illustrated in H. Ottomeyer and P. Pröschel, Vergoldete Bronzen, Die Bronzearbeiten des Spätbarock und Klassizismus, Volume 1, Munich, 1986, p. 285, fig. 4.14.12). The curators of the American museum attribute the candelabra to the famous bronzier Pierre-Philippe Thomire. They link Thomire and Clodion, who in this case would have been both sculptor and creator of the model, thus supporting our attribution of the present pair of candelabra to the renowned Parisian bronze caster.

Pierre-Philippe Thomire (1757-1853) was the most important Parisian bronzier of the last quarter of the 18th century and the first decades of the following century. Early on in his career he worked for Pierre Gouthière, ciseleur-fondeur du roi, and toward the mid-1770’s began working with Louis Prieur. He later became one of the bronziers attached to the Manufacture Royale de Sèvres, creating the bronze mounts for most of the important creations of the day. After the Revolution, he purchased the stock of Martin-Eloi Lignereux, thus becoming the most important suppliers of furniture bronzes for châteaux and Imperial Palaces. In addition, he worked for a wealthy private clientele, both French and foreign, including several of Napoleon’s Marshals. Thomire retired in 1823.

Object Name: Important Pair of Chased, Gilt and Patinated Bronze Three-Light Candelabra, Louis XVI period
Artist name: Pierre-Philippe Thomire
Reference: CA35
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