Allegory of the Sciences Mantel Clock, Louis XVI period
Frédéric Duval, Case Attributed to Jean-Joseph de Saint-Germain
Rare Chased Gilt Bronze Neo-Classical Mantel Clock
Paris, early Louis XVI period, circa 1775
Height 44 cm; width 37.5 cm; depth 14.5 cm
Probably formerly in the collection of Antoinette-Louise-Marie Crozat de Thiers (1731-1809) widow of Count Joachim-Casimir-Léon de Béthune-Pologne (1724-1769); mentioned in his 1809 probate inventory as being in the drawing room of his Paris home: “…a clock made by Frédéric Duval on a base adorned with two children, gilt copper (sic), 100 francs”.
The enamel dial, signed Frédéric Duval à Paris, indicates the hours in Roman numerals and the minutes in Arabic numerals; the gilt bronze case is finely chased. The bezel is framed by a stylised laurel leaf torus; the sides are decorated with rosettes. At the summit, a flaming classical urn is adorned with swags of oak leaves. Two finely sculpted putti are seated on clouds on either side of the dial; the first is surrounded by instruments of scientific measurement: a compass, a protractor and a set square, as well as a laurel wreath; the second holds a finely engraved map. The base is embellished with scrolls and spiral rosettes. The feet are truncated fluted columns.
This clock’s unusual design places it among the finest horological creations of the early Louis XVI period. The composition is harmonious and the chasing and gilding are of the highest quality. These qualities also characterise the work of bronziers Jean-Louis Prieur and Robert Osmond (see H. Ottomeyer and P. Pröschel, Vergoldete Bronzen, Munich, 1986, p. 170, fig. 3.4.17), and are also apparent in a model by Jean-Joseph de Saint-Germain, illustrated in J-D. Augarde, Jean-Joseph de Saint-Germain (1719-1791), in L’Estampille/L’Objet d’art, n° 308, p. 74. We know of only one other comparable example; it is illustrated in P. Kjellberg, Encyclopédie de la pendule française du Moyen Age au XXe siècle, Paris, 1997, p. 238, fig. C.
Frédéric Duval à Paris
Frédéric Duval trained in the workshop of François Béliard, then worked as an ouvrier libre for approximately a decade. Mentioned successively in the rue Mazarine in 1778 and the rue Jacob in 1781, he favoured cases made by the great bronziers of the day, including Saint-Germain, Morlay, Poisson, and Osmond. He appears to have ceased his activity toward the mid 1780’s. The Duke de Choiseul, a connoisseur of fine horology, was probably one of his most important clients.
Jean-Joseph de Saint-Germain (Paris 1719-1791) was probably the mot renowned Parisian of the mid 18th century. Active as of 1742, he did become a master craftsman until July 1748. He became famous for his many clock and cartel cases, such as his Diana the Huntress (an example is in the Louvre Museum), the clock supported by two Chinamen (a similar example is in the Musée des Arts décoratifs in Lyon), as well as several clocks based on animal themes, including elephant and rhinoceros clocks (an example in the Louvre Museum). In the early 1760’s he played an important role in the renewal of the French decorative arts and the development of the Neo-classical style, an important example of which may be seen in his Genius of Denmark clock, made for Frederic V and based on a model by Augustin Pajou (1765, in the Amalienborg Palace, Copenhagen). Saint-Germain also made several clocks inspired by the theme of Learning, or Study, based on a model by Louis-Félix de La Rue (examples in the Louvre Museum, the Gulbenkian Foundation, Lisbon, and the Metropolitan Museum in New York). Along with his clock cases, Saint-Germain also made bronze furniture mounts, such as fire dogs, wall lights, and candelabra. His entire body of work bears witness to his remarkable skills as a chaser and bronzeworker, as well as to his extraordinary creativity. He retired in 1776.