Rare Gilt Bronze, Enamel and White Carrara Marble Skeleton Clock, Directory period
Joseph-Marie Revel (d. Paris 1811)
The Enamels Attributed to Joseph Coteau (1740-1801)
Rare Gilt Bronze, Enamel and White Carrara Marble Skeleton Clock
Paris, Directory period, circa 1795
Height 44.5 cm, width 27 cm, depth 10 cm
The main enamel ring dial reveals a portion of the finely cut wheel train. It indicates the Arabic numeral hours, the date, and the minutes graduation, by means of four hands, two of which are made of pierced gilt bronze and two of blued steel. The days of the week and their respective Zodiac signs are shown along its inner edge. A second dial, under the main dial, indicates the months of the year and their corresponding Zodiac signs by means of a blued steel Breguet hand. A third dial in the clock’s upper portion displays the age and phases of the moon on an enamel disk decorated with a grisaille-painted moon against a starry blue sky. The main ring dial reveals the eight-day movement through its centre, with outer count wheel, two barrels, a pinwheel escapement, and knife-edge suspension. It strikes the hours and half hours on a bell. The pendulum features a magnificent Apollo mask with radiating sunrays.
The frame is painted on enamel on a dark blue ground, with gilt flower swags and four medallions. The two oval medallions are painted with winged putti. The two others, featuring female figures, illustrate the theme of love. A central cartouche bears the clockmaker’s signature: Revel à Paris”. The clock is elaborately decorated with finely chased gilt bronze mounts and is surmounted by a gilt bronze ribbon tied in a bow. The frame is adorned with scrolling, bead friezes, stylized rosettes, and female terms supporting baskets of flowers and leaves. The white marble quadrangular base is decorated with friezes, including a central one depicting putti among clouds, after the work of sculptor Clodion. The clock is raised on four knurled gilt bronze toupie feet.
Only a small number of comparable clocks are known. Among them, one skeleton clock, with enamels by Joseph Coteau, is today in the Paris Musée des Arts Décoratifs (illustrated in Tardy, Les Plus Belles Pendules Françaises, 1994, p. 206, pl. XLII). A second example, also signed “Ridel à Paris”, with enamels by Joseph Coteau dated 1796 and a similar frieze after Clodion, is today in the Musée François Duesberg in Mons (see Pierre Kjellberg, Encyclopédie de la Pendule Française du Moyen Age au XXe Siècle, 1997, p. 319, pl. B). A third clock is shown in Johann Willsberger, Clocks and Watches, 600 Years of the World’s Most Beautiful Timepieces, 1975. One further similar clock, whose dial is signed Laguesse à Liège and whose enamels by Joseph Coteau are dated 1796, in the Pavlovsk Palace in Saint Petersburg (E. Ducamp, Pavlovsk, Les Collections, 1993, p. 186, pl. 17).
Revel à Paris
Very little is known about this clockmaker, who was well known and respected throughout his career. Briefly mentioned in Tardy’s Dictionnaire des horlogers with the first name of Joseph, he was in fact named Joseph-Marie and died in Paris in 1811. After having become master clockmaker, he opened a workshop in the Vieille rue du Temple, and is later recorded in the Palais Royal between 1787 and 1790, then in the Palais Egalité circa 1800, and lastly, in the Palais Tribunat between 1804 and 1806. Certain estate inventories from the early decades of the 19th century mention pieces made by him. In 1817 a clock made by Revel was listed in an inventory drawn up after the death of Adélaïde de Lespinasse-Langeac, the wife of the chevalier de Costalin; in 1821 a second one was recorded as having belonged to Anne-Charlotte-Dorothée, Countess de Médem and widow of the Duke de Courlande.
Joseph Coteau (1740-1801)
The most renowned enameller of his time, he worked with most of the best contemporary Parisian clockmakers. He was born in Geneva, where he was named master painter-enameler of the Académie de Saint Luc in 1766. Several years later he settled in Paris, and from 1772 to the end of his life, he was recorded in the rue Poupée. Coteau is known for a technique of relief enamel painting, which he perfected along with Parpette and which was used for certain Sèvres porcelain pieces, as well as for the dials of very fine clocks. Among the pieces that feature this distinctive décor are a covered bowl and tray in the Sèvres Musée national de la Céramique (Inv. SCC2011-4-2); a pair of “cannelés à guirlandes” vases in the Louvre Museum in Paris (see the exhibition catalogue Un défi au goût, 50 ans de création à la manufacture royale de Sèvres (1740-1793), Musée du Louvre, Paris, 1997, p. 108, catalogue n° 61); and a ewer and the “Comtesse du Nord” tray and bowl in the Pavlovsk Palace in Saint Petersburg (see M. Brunet and T. Préaud, Sèvres, Des origines à nos jours, Office du Livre, Fribourg, 1978, p. 207, fig. 250). A blue Sèvres porcelain lyre clock by Courieult, whose dial is signed “Coteau” and is dated “1785”, is in the Musée national du château in Versailles; it appears to be identical to the example mentioned in the 1787 inventory of Louis XVI’s apartments in Versailles (see Y. Gay and A. Lemaire, “Les pendules lyre”, in Bulletin de l’Association nationale des collectionneurs et amateurs d’Horlogerie ancienne, autumn 1993, n° 68, p. 32C).