Saturday, September 8, 2007

Round Mirror Centerpiece with six candelabra around the edge
Before 1822
Workshop of Pierre-Phillipe Thomire
Paris, France
This circular mirror centerpiece with six candelabra around the edge and an openwork border of gilded bronze is one of the characteristic works of the famous French bronze-smith Pierre-Philippe Thomire. The striving after ever greater luxury in the decoration of the dining table during the Napoleonic Empire brought into vogue a special type of ornament — the surtout de table — that at times numbered over fifty components. It is held that Thomire was the first to come up with the idea of creating a mirror plateau, surrounded by a border of flat gilded bronze relief , on which candelabra and containers for sweets, confections, fruit and flowers could be placed. The mirror reflected light and imparted a special gleam to the gilded bronze. Vases, bowls, cachepots and candelabra were supported by figures of dancing nymphs and bacchantes, cupids, allegorical figures of the seasons and young victors in laurel wreaths. They were combined in symmetrical groups and created a bright conglomeration in the centre of the table that sometimes extended fully ten metres in length. Surtouts de table were specially ordered, the customer selecting the character of the ancient groups with a border of a particular design, creating thematic ensembles.