Exceptional Blue Turquin Marble and Gilt Bronze Mantel Clock, Louis XVI period
The Bronze Mounts attributed to Pierre Gouthière
Exceptional Blue Turquin Marble and Gilt Bronze Mantel Clock
Paris, early Louis XVI period, circa 1775
Height 83 cm; width 38.5 cm; depth 25.5 cm
- Palais des Consuls in Rouen.
The movement, signed “Roque à Paris”, is housed in an oval lidded vase of blue turquin marble, featuring an enamel “cercles tournants” dial, indicating the hours in Roman numerals and the five-minute intervals in Arabic numerals. The finely chased gilt bronze mounts include a surmounting female figure wearing a long antique tunic with upswept hair, who is seated on a rope-tied bundle. She is holding a portrait medallion depicting King Henry IV; at her feet lie a cornucopia, a seashell, a piece of coral, and a ship’s anchor - an allegory of the wealth generated by maritime commerce. The handles are formed by two imposing ram’s heads with curved horns. The lower portion of the vase is decorated with laurel leaves and seeds; it rests on a spreading pedestal that is adorned with molding and a torus of oak leaves and acorns, which rests upon a quadrangular base.
This large allegorical vase clock may be considered one of the most characteristic examples of Parisian Neoclassicism created during the early Louis XVI period. It differs from the other known vase-shaped clocks of the period, due to its unusual theme and the perfect balance and harmony of its bronze décor. Perfectly blending bronze and marble, it bears comparison to the handful of known similar cadrans tournants clocks of the same period. Among the similar, and often one-of-a-kind clocks, one model housed in a blue imitation lapis-lazuli porcelain vase is in the Louvre Museum in Paris (see J. Durand, M. Bimbenet-Privat and F. Dassas, Décors, mobilier et objets d’art du Musée du Louvre de Louis XIV à Marie-Antoinette, Paris, 2014, p. 452, catalogue n° 189). A second clock, made of alabaster, was created, circa 1788, by clockmaker Antide Janvier (see M. Hayard, Antide Janvier 1751-1835, Horloger des étoiles, Villeneuve-Tolosane, 1995, p. 64-65). One further clock, with a movement by Roque, which is accompanied by a matching calendar piece, was in the collection of the Marquis de Brunoy during the 18th century and is today in Waddesdon Manor (see J-D. Augarde, Les ouvriers du Temps, La pendule à Paris de Louis XIV à Napoléon Ier, Genève, 1996, p. 395, fig. 289).
Our attribution of the finely chased gilt bronze mounts to Pierre Gouthière, unquestionably the most talented of Parisian chaser-gilders during the reign of Louis XVI, is based on their stylistic similarity with other models known to have been created by that remarkable artisan, including the ram’s head handles of a serpentine marble vase that was included in the 1782 sale of the Duke d’Aumont’s collection. That vase, purchased by the antique dealer Julliot on behalf of King Louis XVI, was displayed in the Tuileries during the 19th century, and is today in the Louvre Museum in Paris (see D. Alcouffe, A. Dion-Tenenbaum and G. Mabille, Les bronzes d’ameublement du Louvre, Editions Faton, Dijon, 2004, p. 242-243, catalogue n° 121). Also similar are the ram’s heads surmounting tripods adorning the fireplace surround that Pierre Gouthière made, circa 1770-1771, for the Oval Salon of Madame Du Barry, Louis XV’s mistress, in Louveciennes (see the exhibition catalogue Madame Du Barry, De Versailles à Louveciennes, Paris, 1992, p. 14).
Joseph-Léonard Roque (d. after 1789)
May be considered one of the most important Parisian clockmakers of the second half of the 18th century. He was probably trained in the workshop of Alexis Magny, then entered the workshop of Claude-Siméon Passemant, staying until his master’s death in 1769. On July 31 of the following year Roque became a Master and opened a workshop, first in the Colonnades of the Vieux Louvre, then, as of 1772, in the passage du Saumon. Named Clockmaker to the King, he quickly became famous, specializing in luxury clocks that he produced in collaboration with the finest Parisian artisans of the time. Among his clientele were several influential aristocrats, including Jean-René de la Tour du Pin, the Marquis de la Charce, and François-Frédéric de Varennes, Marquis de Bouron, and several important financiers such as Nicolas Beaujon, Court banker, the Farmer General Tavernier de Boulongne and the banker Pierre Sévène. Several of Roque’s clocks were listed in inventories drawn up during the French Revolution, as being in the French royal collections. For the most part, these clocks were delivered to Louis XV, Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette.
Pierre Gouthière (1732-1813) was no doubt the most talented Parisian chaser of his time. He boasted, among his patrons, the Duke d’Aumont, one of the most important collectors of the second half of the 18th century. In 1767 Gouthière was named doreur ordinaire des Menus Plaisirs du Roi. The Menus Plaisirs was responsible for the commissions given by the King to various artists and artisans. The nomination greatly enhanced his reputation and won him a clientele of connoisseurs of rare and precious objects, including the royal family, the duc d’Aumont, important aristocrats such as the Marquis of Marigny, brother of the Marquise de Pompadour, Princess Kinsky, the King’s mistress Countess du Barry, the Duchess of Mazarin, the Duke of Duras, the Duchess of Villeroy, and well-known financiers such as the wealthy treasurer of the Marine, Baudard de Saint-James, and the influential banker Thélusson.