Pair of French Empire Retour d’Égypte ornamental vases

Pair of French Empire Retour d’Égypte ornamental vases

Price: Price on request

Offered by Kollenburg Antiquairs BV

Pair of French Empire Retour d’Égypte ornamental vases Pair of French Empire Retour d’Égypte ornamental vases

A pair of gilt and patinated bronze ornamental vases on a tall foot. The urn-shaped vases stand upon solid, trapezoid bases with alternating appliqués showing Medusa and intertwined dolphins with a trident. The corners are edged with palmette leaves that rest upon the plinth, and the whole is borne by four claw feet. The vases consist of a patinated bronze base borne by a tall, gilt bronze foot that extends into a border of palmette leaves interspersed with acorns. The vases are centrally decorated with stylistic floral motifs on two sides, between which the handles are affixed. The handles have the shape of curled palmette leaves; at the bottom they transform into the headdress of a pharaoh’s head that serves to affix the handles to the vase. The bronze neck flares widely at the top and is also decorated with upstanding palmette leaves. Upon the neck rests the separate lid, which is decorated with a pine cone.

Based on the distinct design, powerful visual idiom and high-quality finish, these ornamental vases can be attributed to Thomire.

Pierre-Philippe Thomire (1751-1843) was one of the most prominent bronze casters and ciseleurs (engravers) of the Empire period. Although he was trained as a sculptor, he chose to practice his father’s profession, and became a bronze caster. In that capacity, he grew into one of the most successful producers of bronze objects in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century. Thomire trained under Gouthière before starting his own enterprise, which produced bronze ornaments for furniture. Later, he worked as an assistant to Duplessis, director of the Manufacture de Sèvres. After Duplessis’ death in 1783, Thomire returned to bronze casting and began producing gilt bronzework for porcelain. He was appointed Ciseleur d’Empereur in 1809.

In 1799, Napoleon set off for Egypt. It was not the first time the French had set their sights on the country: the idea that conquering Egypt would be a way to control the trade with India had already arisen in 1769. After Napoleon made peace with Austria during his expedition through Italy, Great Britain remained as the sole power opposing France. As invading Great Britain was considered impossible, this led to a revival of the plan to invade Egypt. After all, this would be a serious blow to Britain’s dominion in the Middle East, and would allow Napoleon to establish himself as ruler.

The ambitious expedition began auspiciously, but within a few months – when most troops were already committed in Egypt, following several successful battles – the French fleet was defeated by the British at sea. Napoleon remained in Egypt a bit longer before returning to Paris in 1799 to seize power. His remaining troops held on until 1801, when they were finally defeated by the British.

From a military point of view, the undertaking was a failure, but scientifically and culturally it was a great success. Napoleon had brought along many scientists in addition to his troops, who were able to uncover a wealth of information about Egypt and its many treasures. This sparked much interest and a true mania for all things related to Egypt. This Egyptomania strongly affected the art, architecture, fashion, applied art and jewellery of those years.

Private collection, Amsterdam
ca. 1805
fire-gilt and patinated bronze
39.5 x 12.5 x 12.5 cm

Offered by

Kollenburg Antiquairs BV

Postbus 171
5688 ZK Oirschot
The Netherlands

+31 499578037
+31 655822218

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