A Rare Pair of Decorative Oil Lamps in Matte and Burnished Gilt Bronze “Study and Philosophy”, Louis XVI period

Pierre-Philippe Thomire

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Attributed to Pierre-Philippe Thomire
After a model by Sculptor Louis-Simon Boizot
A Rare Pair of Decorative Oil  Lamps in Matte and Burnished Gilt Bronze
“Study and Philosophy”
Paris, Louis XVI period, circa 1780-1785
Height 33.5 cm; width 37 cm; base: 12.5 cm x 12.3 cm

Made entirely of finely chased, patinated, and gilt bronze, each group is in the form of a classical oil lamp with a nozzle issuing a flame. The bellies of the lamps are adorned with radiating fluting and feature ring-decorated pedestals that are set on square bases. Opposite the flame motifs, seated male and female figures are wearing classical draperies. The woman is attentively reading from a parchment that she holds on her knee; the man is writing on a tablet with a stylus.
 
The figures of Study and Philosophy, created in 1776 by the renowned sculptor Louis-Simon Boizot for the Royal Sèvres Porcelain Manufactory, remained extremely popular until the late 18th century. Parisian artisans produced many variations of them, in the form of fireplace fenders, decorative lamps, andirons, horological pieces, and lamps. The original plaster models are preserved today in the Musée National de la Céramique in Sèvres (illustrated in the exhibition catalogue La Manufacture des Lumières, La sculpture à Sèvres de Louis XV à la Révolution, Cité de la céramique, Sèvres, 2015-2016, p. 325). A clock adorned with the same figures became immensely successful among collectors of the second half of the 18th century. Only a few extant examples of the model, called the “pendule aux maréchaux”, are known. Among them, three comparable clocks are in the Spanish Royal Collection (see J. Ramon Colon de Carvajal, Catalogo de relojes del Patrimonio nacional, Madrid, 1987, pp. 62, 64 and 92). Three other such clocks are in the British Royal Collection (see C. Jagger, Royal Clocks, The British Monarchy and its Timekeepers 1300-1900, London, 1983, pp. 211-212). A pair of chenets in the Grand Trianon, in the gardens of the Château de Versailles, are adorned with the same figures (see H. Ottomeyer and P. Pröschel, Vergoldete Bronzen, Die Bronzearbeiten des Spätbarock und Klassizismus, Band I, Munich, 1986, p. 294, fig. 4.17.3). A fireplace fender adorned with the same two figures, which formerly belonged to Prince Murat and stood in the Elysée Palace, is now part of the Paris Mobilier national (illustrated in M-F. Dupuy-Baylet, L’Heure, le Feu, la Lumière, Les bronzes du Mobilier national 1800-1870, Editions Faton, Dijon, 2010, pp. 202-203).
 
Decorative (non-functional) oil lamps first appeared in the late 1770s or the beginning of the 1780s. A drawing showing a similar lamp, probably a preparatory study done before production, or a commercial drawing executed for sales purposes, is known. Attributed to the bronze-caster Pierre-Philippe Thomire, it is now in the Paris Musée des Arts décoratifs (illustrated in G. Wilson and P. Friess, European Clocks in the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, 1996, p. 127, fig. 17c). Today, among the small number of decorative lamps known to exist, one pair with gilt bronze figures is in the Pavlovsk Palace near Saint Petersburg (illustrated in A. Kuchumov, Pavlovsk, Palace & Park, Aurora Art Publishers, Leningrad, 1975, p. 257, fig. 208). One model, whose nozzle terminates in a candleholder, is illustrated in H. Ottomeyer and P. Pröschel, op.cit., p. 294, fig. 4.17.1. One further pair of similar lamps, which came from the Château de la Chesnaie, is now in the J. Paul Getty Museum in Malibu (see G. Wilson and C. Hess, Summary Catalogue of European Decorative Arts in the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, 2001, p. 93, catalogue n° 189).
 
Louis-Simon Boizot (Paris 1743-Paris 1809) 
The son of painter Antoine Boizot, at a young age he entered the workshop of the sculptor Michel-Ange Slodtz, winning the Premier prix for sculpture in 1762. Subsequently, he went to the Ecole royale des élèves protégés; in 1765 became a pensionnaire of the Académie de France in Rome. Arriving in October 1765, he remained in Rome until October 1770. During those five years he studied the sculpture of classical antiquity, as well as the work of the great sculptors who had been active in Rome and had left examples of their art in that city. By the time he returned to Paris, Boizot had already become quite well known. He was admitted to the Académie royale de peinture et de sculpture, but did not become an académicien until November 1778. He exhibited regularly in the Parisian Salons and received important commissions, including for the château de Fontainebleau and the Palais Bourbon. From 1774 to 1785 he led the sculpture workshop of the Royal Sèvres Manufactory, supervising the creation of all the models for nearly a decade, and thus playing a preeminent role in the development of the decorative arts of the period. After the fall of the monarchy, he sat on the commissions devoted to the conservation of science and the arts. His workshop was still active in the early 19th century, taking part in the creation of the Fontaine du Palmier in the place du Châtelet and the decoration of the Colonne de la Grande Armée in the place Vendôme.
 
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: A Rare Pair of Decorative Oil Lamps in Matte and Burnished Gilt Bronze “Study and Philosophy”, Louis XVI period
Artist name: Pierre-Philippe Thomire
Reference: O052
   
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