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Two by two: Pairs of figural sculptures lead Bonhams Fine European Furniture Sale
A pair of large Chinese brass and cloisonne enamel floor-standing figures of cranes. Photo: Bonhams.

LONDON.- A pair of half naked male and female large bronze figures, each holding aloft a cut-glass torch, stand proud as the top lot in the Fine European Furniture sale at Bonhams New Bond Street on 10th July.

Esclave Indien and Esclave Indienne are a pair of French 19th century gilt and patinated bronze torchères by François-Christophe-Armand Toussaint (1806-1862). The works were commissioned by the French Interior Minister in 1850 and stood in the Ministry's offices in Paris. At the 1862 Great Exhibition in London, French reporter Deherain commented: “…everyone was struck by those half naked figures, with their eyes on the ground, expressing the resignation of a vanquished people…".

The pair is offered with an estimate of £100,000-£150,000.

A pair of white marble busts by Emile Guillemin (1841-1907) is another of the sale highlights. The busts depict Oriental ladies in traditional headdress and jewellery and are expected to realise £50,000-£80,000. Middle Eastern themes had fascinated European artists for centuries, however, Orientalism took on a new dimension in nineteenth-century France with the conquest of Egypt by Napoleon Bonaparte (1798-1801) and the invasion of Algiers (1830). By the 1870s, Guillemin had become one of the leading French sculptors working in the Orientalist genre.

Two exquisite colourful enamel and Chinese brass birds stand almost 2meters high on red and gold hexagonal lacquer bases. Each blue decorated crane holds a twin-light candlestick and incense burner in its beak and serves as a floor-standing lamp. Each model sits on a rockwork base, delicately painted with a landscape, fish, crabs and lobsters. The pair is offered with an estimate of £20,000-£30,000.

Another of the star lots is a set of six green painted wood panels depicting the twelve months in zodiac signs and associated mythological Gods which is expected to sell for £20,000-£30,000.

An enamel circular table top, made of solidified volcanic lava, is decorated in bright coloured enamels with Pompeian style faces, birds and medallions and stands on a walnut tripod base. Executed by Hachette et Cie circa 1835 and the design probably by the architect Jacques Ignace Hittorf, the table is offered with an estimate of £15,000-£25,000.

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