Important Pair of Large Gilt and Patinated Bronze Seven-Light Neoclassical Candelabra with Matte and Burnished Finishing
Attributed to Pierre-Philippe Thomire
Paris, Empire period, circa 1805-1810
– Given by Charles de Beistegui (1895-1970) in 1970, along with a second pair of similar candelabra, as a wedding gift, to Juan Guillermo de Beistegui (1930-2017) and Annick de Rohan-Chabot.
– The mansion of Mr. and Mrs. Juan Guillermo de Beistegui, rue de Varenne in Paris.
Made entirely of finely chased gilt and patinated bronze with matte and burnished finishing, the candelabra feature an anthropomorphic stem in the form of a magnificent priestess in a solemn pose. The priestesses are dressed in a long tunic that is embroidered in a zigzag pattern. Each woman brandishes an oil lamp with an elongated mid-portion that is surmounted by two winged Victory figures, which are leaning against the faux lid with an acorn finial, with a lower portion that is adorned with waterleaves; the Victories reach out toward a double flower with rosettes, upon which a dove is perching. The spouts are in the form of the heads of imaginary beasts with open mouths; the pedestals, with gadrooned rings, rest upon round bases adorned with stylized palm and bead friezes. Each priestess supports on her head an Ionic chapter with scrolls and gadrooning, on which rests a covered bowl that is decorated with wide pierced palms, from which emerges the slightly bulging baluster stem that issues the light branches. The stem terminates in a nozzle and drip pan featuring three small cornices adorned with scrolls, which support butterflies; to it are attached six other sinuous light branches, arranged on two levels. They are elaborately decorated with scrolling, mascarons, gadrooned friezes and ewers with applied handles that are adorned with lions’ heads; the nozzles and drip pans are embellished with palm, leaf, and Greek key motifs and flowers. The female figures stand on tall triangular bases with convex sides that are elaborately adorned with egg-and-dart and heart leaf friezes, with masks of Diana and bead friezes at the corners, as well as applied motifs including, on the front, the chariots of Venus and Mercury being pulled by swans and roosters, surmounting oculi in which are owls with outstretched wings against a starry ground, and on the sides, arabesques with flowers, acanthus leaves and palm motifs centered by male goats supported by thyrses. On the corners of the bases there are winged horses with scaly fish tails. The triangular plinth has canted corners and slightly concave sides.
In 1798 and 1801, France led an expedition to Egypt, with the aim of countering Britain’s ambitions in the Orient, and of dominating the region politically and economically. This military operation, originally led by General Napoleon Bonaparte and later by his successors, was known as the Egyptian Campaign. It was a veritable research mission manned by eminent scientists, historians and artists. After returning to France, the repercussions of the mission were extraordinarily influential, particularly in the field of the decorative arts. By 1802, Baron Vivant-Denon had published his Voyage dans la Basse et la Haute Egypte, which became a great success. Subsequently, architects, painters, and artisans began to produce their own interpretations of Egyptian models, of which they made many variations and whose motifs they introduced into their own work. In the field of lighting, there are many candelabra that are adorned with solemn female figures that were inspired by the monumental sculpture of the Egypt of the Pharaohs. The present pair of candelabra was made within that particular context. Their unusual design, as well as the exceptional quality of their chasing and gilding, support an attribution to Pierre-Philippe Thomire, the most talented Parisian bronzier of the early decades of the 19th century. Today, among the rare identical pairs of candelabra known to exist – though with certain variations in their decor – one pair, also offered by La Pendulerie, has the same provenance. Another pair, made entirely of gilt bronze, is illustrated in G. and R. Wannenes, Les bronzes ornementaux et les objets montés de Louis XIV à Napoléon III, Milan, 2004, p. 387. One further pair, which was formerly in the Mancel collection, is pictured in S. Chadenet, Les styles Empire & Restauration, Editions Baschet et Cie, Paris, p. 25.
The Beistegui: A Dynasty of Great Collectors
Descendants of a powerful family that made its fortune in silver mines in Mexico, the Beisteguis settled in France during the last quarter of the 19th century, after the fall of Emperor Maximilian. The founder’s grandson, Carlos de Beistegui (1863-1953), became interested in art in general, and in the French decorative arts in particular, at an early age. An insatiable collector, within just a few decades he had amassed a considerable collection of artworks, including a group of 18th century portraits, which was given, subject to usufruct, to the Louvre Museum. It may be seen today in a room that bears the family name. His nephew Charles de Beistegui (1895-1970) followed in his uncle’s footsteps, famously acquiring, decorating, and completely overhauling the Château de Groussay in Montfort-l’Amaury. That remarkable achievement grew out of his partnership with the interior decorator Emilio Terry, as did the “Ball of the Century” that was held in September in the Palazzo Labia in Venice, his Italian residence. Several years later, in 1970, Charles gave two pairs of candelabra, including the present pair, to his nephew Juan Guillermo de Beistegui, upon the latter’s marriage to Annick de Rohan-Chabot. Like his uncle and great-uncle, Juan Guillermo de Beistegui was a great lover of the French decorative art of the 18th and 19th centuries. The son of Juan Francisco de Beistegui e Yturbe and Carmen de Landa y Osio, the daughter of the governor of Mexico, Juan Guillermo and his wife lavishly furnished their Parisian mansion in the rue de Varenne – formerly the residence of Marshal Lannes – carefully selecting furniture, seating, sculpture, objets d’art and bronze furnishings from the 18th century and the Napoleonic period.
Pierre-Philippe Thomire (1757 - 1843)
Pierre-Philippe Thomire 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.