A very large centerpiece in gilt and patinated bronze consisting of two patinated bronze putti on a oval shaped gilt bronze plinth on four oblate feet. The top of the plinth is decorated with a rosette of stylized acanthus leaves and a pommegranate center. The putti carry an open work oval basket with stylized palmets and rope-shaped bars. The upper and lower rim are decorated with stylized floral motif. The underside of the basket consists of a patinated bronze plaque ornamented with gilt bronze palmettes and a glyphed boss decorated with leaves.
This magnificent centerpiece was almost certainly made as part of a ‘surtout de table’, an elaborate dining service, which in the early nineteenth century was displayed on a long mirrored plateau in the centre of a large dining table. This type of service was developed in France during the reign of Napoleon’s rule and in the wake of his various conquests was soon adopted throughout Europe. Pierre-Philippe Thomire (1751-1843), who was elected ciseleur de l’Empereur in 1809 in recognition of his service to Napoleon, created some of the very finest and most lavish surtouts for the Emperor and members of his Imperial court.
The centerpiece was intended to hold flowers or possibly fruit or sweets. A typical complete surtout de table may have comprised 24 and even 59 pieces which would probably have included smaller flanking centerpieces, tiered bon-bon dishes and sweetmeat plates, fruit baskets, possibly vases and accompanying candelabra placed on both the mirrored plateau and around its sides. While some remain as complete sets many have inevitably been separated, not least due to the practicalities of smaller dining tables. Despite separation, individual pieces are still very highly prized.