It is a half-portrait relief in terracotta and wax, signed and dated 1776 and housed in the original 7 x 6in (19x 15cm) wooden frame.
The identity of the sitter is revealed on a small piece of vellum beneath the relief: Marie Antoinette d’autriche Reine de France.
It belongs to Thomire’s early work – only in the previous year had he established his own workshop in Paris. The auctioneers can provide no information about the provenance other than that the portrait came from a now deceased collector, and have given the piece a modest estimate of €300.
Thomire trained originally as a sculptor, but made a name for himself as a bronze caster, primarily supplying ornate bronze mounts for the Sèvres porcelain manufacture.
This work enabled him to survive the turmoil of the French Revolution and he later found favour with Napoleon who made him ciseleur de l’empereur (engraver to the emperor). Thomire never abandoned his work as a sculptor, exhibiting at the Paris Salons until late in his life.