Why we're Bananas about French Empire Winged Victories

Posted On: 25 May 2021 by Duncan Wills

What's the difference between a Banana and a pair of French Empire Winged Victory Candlesticks? We share some hopefully fascinating facts about 2 of the wonderful lots in our auction of the 29th May 2021


Wincanton Auctions Winged Victories

Part of the pleasure of running an auction is not knowing what will come through the door next and being a General Saleroom we get to see and enjoy a huge variety of lots our customers want us to auction. We love having interesting things, they don’t necessarily have to be valuable, and they aren’t always necessarily beautiful, such as the pre-loved carved wooden Banana the lovely and eclectic owners of these gorgeous French Empire Winged Victory Candlesticks also brought us. So it wasn’t too difficult a choice to want to share a few hopefully interesting and informative facts about their Candlesticks with you rather than their Banana!

In the ages of the Greek and Roman Empires, concepts such as Justice, Peace, Revenge and Victory were represented by female figures, allegorical figures. To the Romans, Victory, otherwise known as Nike by the Greeks, was represented by a winged goddess, sometimes blowing a trumpet.

She was meant to be a messenger, flying over the Earth spreading the news of military or athletic victory and bringing the victors the symbols of their triumph such as crowns or trophies or laurel wreathes.

Move forward in time many many hundreds of years to Napoléon Bonaparte's invasion of Ottoman Egypt in the summer of 1798, a move intended to forestall the drift of that province into British control and attempt to undermine Britain’s imperial interests in India and resulting in the regions occupation by France until 1805.

Napoleon returned to France with scientific research and archaeological discoveries. France celebrated and Egyptian motifs like sphinxes, lotus blossom, winged lions, and caryatids became very popular as design motifs. Napoleon I became Emperor of the First French Empire (1804-1814) and often compared himself with Emperor Augustus, developing a special affection for classical antiquity . Soon the combination of Egyptian patterns, as well as those drawn from Ancient Greece and Rome, became well-known characteristics of what became a design movement known as the French Empire style of decoration. This became noticeable in the design of French furniture of the period becoming adorned with symbols and ornaments borrowed from the great Greek and Roman Empires.

For auction this Saturday 29th May 2021 we are delighted to offer Lot 1a, these early 19th Century French Empire Bronze and Ormolu Winged Victories, two light candelabra in the form of torches in the manner of Pierre-Philippe Thomire. Pierre-Philippe Thomire was a French sculptor who was the most prominent bronzier, or producer of ornamental patinated and gilt-bronze objects and furniture mounts, of the First French Empire. (A candelabra supported by a winged figure of Victory by Pierre-Philippe Thomire made in Paris between 1810-15 can be found at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.)


Winged Victories were commonly produced during Napoleon's rule as symbols of his military triumph. Winged Victories became synonymous with the French Empire style of decoration and influential design icons to this day, visible as the FIFA World Cup trophy, originally called Victory in 1929 and subsequently renamed as the Jules Rimet Trophy.

Additionally, in 1971, the American designer Carolyn Davidson completely rebranded the Blue Ribbon Sports Company, by renaming it after the goddess’s Greek name – Nike – and by referring to her wing through the new logo’s shape, the famous “swoosh”.

The Banana is Lot 479.