Pierre-Philippe Thomire (1751-1843), maître fondeur-ciseleur in 1772.
A remarkable illustration of the unrelenting fashion among distinguished Parisian collectors and amateurs for objets montés in the 1780s, these superb cassolettes were certainly executed by Pierre-Philippe Thomire, the most celebrated bronzier of the neoclassical period. The materials employed, the ambitious design and the unparalleled execution, all typify the celebrated bronzier's continued quest for innovative creations.
THE THOMIRE ATTRIBUTION
A watercolour dated 1785 attributed to Thomire's atelier and now in the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris, illustrates a cassolette virtually identical to the pair here offered (ill. H. Ottomeyer, P. Pröschel et. al., Vergoldete Bronzen, Vol. I, Munich, 1986, p.298, fig. 4.18.6.). A rare survival from the past, this watercolour represents the more 'sophisticated' version of the dessins industriels or sketches most typically drawn up by Thomire's workshop and on the basis of which the celebrated bronzier executed his productions (as discussed by J. Niclausse, Thomire, Fondeur-Ciseleur (1751-1843), Sa vie - Son oeuvre, Paris, 1947, p. 56).
These striking cassolettes are unquestionably related to the ormolu-enriched porphyry vase à l'étrusque attributed to Thomire and acquired by Madame du Barry from the celebrated marchands-merciers Daguerre and Lignereux in 1792, now in the Musée du Louvre, Paris (inv. OA6620 and illustrated in D. Alcouffe et al., Gilt Bronzes in the Louvre, Dijon, 2004, pp.232-3). The latter example is conformingly modeled with female figures each playing two horns, their bodies delicately terminating in foliate scrolls and fruited acanthus leaves, their domed covers similarly enhanced with rosettes surmounted by fruit finials. This model in the goût étrusque was most probably first commissioned by Madame du Barry's 'predecessor', Madame de Pompadour (G. & R. Wannenes, Les Bronzes Ornementaux et les Objets Montés, Milan, 2004, p. 343).
Further variations on the theme include a pair of grey and blue porcelain cassolettes shaped as athéniennes featuring similar female figures playing horns, formerly in Empress Eugénie's study in the Palais des Tuileries, now in the Musée du Louvre, Paris (OA5505 and ill. Op.Cit, p. 234-5) and a further pair with putti playing horns, formerly in the collections of Baron Erich von Goldschmidt-Rothschild, and now in the Huntington Museum (ill. in French Art of the Eighteenth Century at the Huntington, Huntington Library, 2008, fig. 60).
OBJETS MONTÉS FROM THE SÈVRES MANUFACTURE
The Sèvres Manufacture first produced 'vases à monter' circa 1763, most probably at the behest of the marchand-galantier-parfumeur Jean Dulac (1704-1786), whose signature appears on the earliest known mounted Sèvres vase à monter and recorded in an inventory of Madame de Pompadour's collection drawn up upon her death in 1764 (L. Roth and C. Le Corbeiller, French Eighteenth-Century Porcelain at the Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford 2000, p. 121).
The gently elongated shape of the present pair of cassolettes can be related to the vase bouteille en écharpe created by the Sèvres Manufacture circa 1765-66 (M. Brunet and T. Préaud, Sèvres, Des origines à nos jours, Fribourg, 1978; Savill, pp. 270-276, nos. C279-281). Related vases bouteille enriched with gilt-bronze mounts include a porphyry vase illustrated in The Wrightsmann Collection, vol.III, Greenwich, CT, 1970, pp.70-74, pl. 306; a blue and white Sèvres porcelain vase dated circa 1765-70 (ill. in G. & R. Wannenes, Les Bronzes Ornementaux et les Objets Montés, Milan, 2004, p. 342) and an apple-green Sèvres porcelain vase, formerly in the collection of Alfred Charles de Rothschild, and sold anonymously at Christie's, London, 6 December 2007, lot 32 (£120,500).
After Jean-Claude Thomas Duplessis's death in 1783, Thomire became responsible for designing and fitting ormolu mounts for objets à monter at the Sèvres Manufacture. Interestingly, the Sèvres Archives which refer in the mid-1780's to various cassolettes à monter include a drawing dated 20 April 1784 which incorporates a porcelain base inscribed Vase Casollette pour Etre Monté par M. Tomier (sic Thomire).
Objets montés rapidly became au goût du jour both in France and with Russian and English aristocrats in the late 18th Century and enjoyed lasting popularity. Among the keenest collectors and amateurs were Madame du Barry, who purchased two vases beau bleu montés en bronze for 1,000 livres each, Marie-Antoinette, who acquired an ormolu-mounted jasper tazza by the bronzier Pierre Gouthière for her boudoir circa 1774-75, now in the Wallace Collection, London (F292), and Maria Feodorovna who in 1799 acquired a related garniture for the State Bedroom at Mikhailovsky Castle (Christie's, New York, 31 October 1996, lot 437).
The fashion for objets montés remains unabated and related examples are today in the Wallace Collection in London, in the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles (Acc. no. 73.D1.77.1-2) and in the Royal Collection at Buckingham Palace.