Important Matte and Burnished Gilt Mantel Clock "Fame Receiving Laurels from Victory", Empire period
Important Matte and Burnished Gilt Mantel Clock "Fame Receiving Laurels from Victory"
Paris, Empire period, circa 1810
Height 51.5 cm; width 44 cm; depth 14 cm
The round white enamel dial, signed “Gabriel Le Roy/Rue du Temple vis-à-vis les Bains”, indicates the Roman numeral hours and the Arabic fifteen-minute intervals by means of two blued steel “Breguet” hands; the hour and half-hour striking movement is housed in a very finely chased matte and burnished gilt bronze case. The bezel, which is decorated with bead friezes, is framed by wheat sheaves, cornucopias and ribbons. The clock is surmounted by an entablature decorated with applied laurel leaf wreaths that supports a central medallion surrounded by beribboned drapery, bearing the profile of a helmeted Minerva. A magnificent winged female figure wearing antique draperies, with her hair bound in a bun, is leaning against the medallion. She is an allegory of Fame, and holds a laurel wreath in her right hand and a trumpet in the other hand. On the other side of the clock there is an octagonal shield decorated with a Gorgon’s head and a young winged putto who holds a laurel branch in his right hand. The high rectangular base with rounded corners is decorated with eagles with outstretched wings. It is raised upon six knurled toupie feet. The quadrangular green marble plinth is supported on chased flattened bun feet.
The highly unusual neoclassical design of the present clock, as well as its exceptional chasing and gilding and its rare theme, make it one of the most elaborate Parisian horological creations of the Empire period. The iconography, which was inspired by Napoleon’s military victories, reflects the Emperor’s desire to promote the idea of a Grand Army whose bravura made it invincible and led it to victory. The particularly fine treatment of the faces, particularly that of Fame, and the ornamental details, indicate the work of an exceptionally good Parisian bronzier-chaser such as Pierre-Philippe Thomire or Claude Galle.
To the best of our knowledge only one other identical clock, featuring minor variations in the decoration, is known to exist. It was sold in Paris by Mes Ader-Picard-Tajan, Palais Galliera, on June 7, 1974, lot 77.
Gabriel Leroy probably came from a dynasty of well-known clockmakers that was active in Paris from the mid 18th century until the early 19th century. He is mentioned as having worked at 115, rue du Temple from 1802 to 1822 (see Tardy, Dictionnaire des horlogers français, Paris, 1971, p. 405).