Bronze Filigree Garniture, Restoration period
Rare Gilt Bronze Filigree Garniture
Paris, Restoration period, first half 19th century, circa 1840
Candlesticks: height 17.5 cm; base 7.5 x 7.5 cm
Clock: height 41 cm; width 26 cm; depth 7 cm
This garniture includes a “cathedral” style clock whose dial, in the form of the rose window, has Arabic hours and minutes in white enamel cartouches, indicated by a pair of pierced blued steel hands. The dial, the flanking towers surmounted by pyramids, the clock summit adorned by a lidded urn with a pinecone finial, the façade, the base, and the sides, are all made of metal filigree, with fretwork, lyres, and flower motifs all executed with great finesse and delicacy. The clock is flanked by a pair of candlesticks whose cylindrical stems rest on square bases adorned with filigree medallions embellished with scrolling, leaves, and geometrical designs, and are raised on four small ball feet.
To the best of our knowledge this garniture is one-of-a-kind. Its design is reminiscent of certain 18th century creations such as the “pendule au treillage” made by Robin for Marie-Antoinette’s bedroom in the Petit Trianon, today still in Versailles (illustrated in D. Ledoux-Lebard, Versailles, Le Petit Trianon, Paris, 1989, p. 174). Filigree pieces, in bronze and other metals, were extremely popular during the 19th century; a comparable blued and gilt steel clock made circa 1880 by Delettrez is today in the Royal British Collection (RCIN 2908). An identical pair of candlesticks was formerly in the collection of Madame Riahi; at the time of the sale, due to their delicacy, they were thought to date from the 18th century (Me Ader, Paris, Hôtel George V, June 23, 1988, lot 16).
During the first half of the 19th century, filigree objects are mentioned very rarely; two documents contain descriptions of similar objects: on the 18th of Brumaire, year IX, in the probate inventory of the wife of Géraud Devèze, the clock was estimated as follows: “a mantle clock bearing the name Michel, striking the hours and half hours, with an enamel dial, in a case with 6 columns of copper filigree, on a marble base, 60 francs”; several decades later, in a sale of the property of Monsieur Duriez of Lille, one reads: “1098. Two small flambeaux imitating filigree”. The present garniture is so skilfully executed that it may have been made by an exceptional goldsmith such as Charles-Henri Christofle, the first to employ “Genoa” filigree in jewellery. At the 1839 exhibition, he showed five small filigree birds “that were perfectly executed, but cost their maker infinite pains; each bird, copied after nature from real hummingbirds, weighed hardly 4 and a half grams!” A silver filigree bonbonnière with tray by Christofle is stylistically comparable to the present garniture; it is in the Bouilhet-Christofle Museum in Saint-Denis (see the exhibition catalogue Un âge d’or des arts décoratifs 1814-1848, Galeries du Grand Palais, October 10 - December 30 1991, p. 365).