Neo-classical Urn Mantel Clock, Louis XVI period
Charles-Cécile Filon and Robert Osmond
Important Chased Gilt Bronze Neoclassical Mantel Clock
Paris, early Louis XVI period, circa 1775
Height 75 cm; length 43 cm; depth 26.8 cm
Formerly in the collection of the Duchess de La Rochefoucauld (1895-1991)
The enamel dial, signed Filon à Paris, features Roman numeral hours and Arabic minutes; the finely chased gilt bronze neoclassical case bears the signature of bronzier Robert Osmond. The dial is contained within an urn with chased handles and pomegranate finial, ornamented with rosettes and laurel toruses and garlands. The diagonally fluted stem is decorated with a ribbon-tied laurel torus. The urn rests on a monumental trellis-pierced base embellished with laurel garlands, ribbons, and an interlocking rosette frieze. It is flanked by two putti, one of whom is holding a tablet and a stylus. The white marble plinth rests on four toupie feet decorated with ribbon-tied toruses.
This remarkable clock bears witness to the talent of Robert Osmond (1711-1789), one of the most important Parisian bronze casters of his time. Having created this case in the late 1760’s or early 1770’s, he continued to use it for two decades. Only a few similar examples are known; these present certain variations, particularly as concerns the treatment of the two putti. One was offered in the 1882 sale of the Dukes of Hamilton collection; a second, with a dial signed Berthoud, is in the Paris Musée des Arts Décoratifs (illustrated in H. Ottomeyer and P. Pröschel, Vergoldete Bronzen, Band I, Munich, 1986, p. 177); a third is in the Louvre (illustrated in D. Alcouffe, A. Dion-Tenenbaum and G. Mabille, Les bronzes d’ameublement du Louvre, Dijon, 2004, catalogue n° 60). Two examples identical to the present clock are known; the first was formerly in the collection of Etienne Lévy (see P. Siguret, Lo Stile Luigi XVI, Milan, 1965, p. 122); the second, from the famous Eugène Kraemer collection, was sold at auction (Paris, Galerie Georges Petit, April 28-29, 1913, lot 95).
Charles-Cécile Filon became a master in 1751; his workshop was located in the rue de la Grande Truanderie from 1751 to 1774. Due to his excellent reputation and widespread fame, he was chosen to construct the movement of a regulator invented by Passemant, which stood in the Duke de Choiseul’s study in the Château de Chanteloup (see J-D. Augarde, Les ouvriers du Temps, Genève, 1996, p. 383, fig. 280). During the 18th century, certain of his pieces were mentioned in the probate inventories of lawyer and art collector Nicolas-Philippe de Rebergues, and that of banker Joseph Duruey.
Robert Osmond (1711- 1789)
Jean-Baptiste Osmond (1742-after 1790)
French bronze-caster Robert Osmond was born in Canisy, near Saint-Lô; he began his apprenticeship in the workshop of Louis Regnard, maître fondeur en terre et en sable, and became a master bronzier in Paris in 1746. He is recorded as working in the rue des Canettes in the St Sulpice parish, moving to the rue de Mâcon in 1761. Robert Osmond became a juré, thus gaining a certain degree of protection of his creative rights. In 1753, he sent for his nephew in Normandy, and in 1761, the workshop, which by that time had grown considerably, moved to the rue de Macon. The nephew, Jean-Baptiste Osmond (1742-after 1790) became a master in 1764 and as of that date worked closely with his uncle, to such a degree that it is difficult to differentiate between the contributions of each.
Robert appears to have retired around 1775. Jean-Baptiste, who remained in charge of the workshop after the retirement of his uncle, encountered difficulties and went bankrupt in 1784. Robert Osmond died in 1789.
Prolific bronze casters and chasers, the Osmonds worked with equal success in both the Louis XV and the Neo-classical styles. Prized by connoisseurs of the period, their work was distributed by clockmakers and marchands-merciers. Although they made all types of furnishing objects, including fire dogs, wall lights and inkstands, the only extant works by them are clocks, including one depicting the Rape of Europe (Getty Museum, California) in the Louis XV style and two important Neo-classical forms, of which there are several examples, as well as a vase with lions' heads (Musée Condé, Chantilly and the Cleveland Museum of Art) and a cartel-clock with chased ribbons (examples in the Stockholm Nationalmuseum; Paris, Nissim de Camondo Museum). A remarkable clock decorated with a globe, cupids and a Sèvres porcelain plaque (Paris, Louvre) is another of their notable works.
Specialising at first in the rocaille style, in the early 1760’s they turned to the new Neo-classical style and soon numbered among its greatest practitioners. They furnished cases to the best clockmakers of the period, such as Montjoye, for whom they made cases for cartonnier and column clocks, the column being one of the favourite motifs of the Osmond workshop.