Exceptional Mutli-dial automaton skeleton clock

François-Joseph Hartmann

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Francois-Joseph Hartmann, enamel by Joseph Coteau
Exceptional Gilt bronze and polychrome enamel automaton skeleton clock
Paris, Empire period, made between 22nd September 1799 and 21st September 1800
Height of the clock 75 cm.
Height including glazed case and mahogany baseboard 99 cm.

A unique and highly important Republican gilt bronze and enamel multi-dial automaton clock, conceived and made by François-Joseph Hartmann, almost certainly for the second Exposition des Produits de L’Industrie Française held in 1801, with eight fine enamel dials and signature plaque by Joseph Coteau, featuring full Republican and Gregorian calendars, the age and phases of the moon, the times of sunrise and sunset, the equation of time, world time and the zodiac signs.

Signed Hartmann Invenit Fecit à Paris in gold on a blue enamel plaque below the main dial; the movement front plate stamped twice with the initials HM, the main dial also signed Coteau below the VI; the majority of the other dials also similarly signed, in several instances including the year ‘an 8’ (22nd September 1799-21st September 1800).

The main dial (13.5 cm in diameter) with twelve polychrome signs of the zodiac within gilt and jewelled borders, the zodiac ring encompassing an annual Gregorian date ring, the minute ring comprised of gilt dots and Arabic five-minute numerals, Roman hours and an inner quarter hour track. The main dial with five hands: a blued steel calendar hand with moon tip for the date, a blued steel centre seconds hand, an engraved gilt brass hour hand, an engraved gilt brass minute hand, with gilt brass "sun" hand for the solar time and a blued steel skeleton hand for the mean time, the open centre of the dial revealing the wheels with star crossings.

The three uppermost dials indicating the Republican calendar, with seasons (Printems, Ete, Automne and Hiver) and months (Germinal, Floreal, Prairal, Messidor, Thermidor, Fructidor, Vendemiaire, Brumaire, Frimaire, Nivose, Pluviose, Ventose) above, the days of the week (Primidi, Duodi, Tridi, Quartidi, Quintidi, Sextidi, Septidi, Octidi, Nonidi and Decadi) and the 30 days of the month. Below the main dial to the left, a lunar dial entitled Croissan Decroissant de la Lune is embellished with gilt scrolling ; it depicts the moon, with its mountains and valleys, against a deep blue sky studded with 103 gilt stars.

Opposite, the dial indicating the times of sunrise and sunset is entitled Lever et Coucher du Soleil; it features a gilt sun against a light blue ground, with outer Roman hours, from IIII to XII and back to VIII, centered by a globe showing the North and South Poles, Europe, Africa and Australia (called New Holland until 1824), with clearly marked latitude and longitude lines, the enamelled shutters shaded from yellow to pink to indicate the times of sunrise and sunset.

The lower left hand dial has an outer scale graduated from 1-30, with the days and signs of the days’ planets. The lower right hand dial, featuring a twice I-XII scale, bears the names of 53 places, including San Salvador, Quebec, Mexico, Pekin, Siam, Goa, Bagdad, Moskou, Constantinople, Rome and Paris (written in red capitals).

The movement with a nearly round back plate (diam. 6 in.) bearing the two main spring barrels with offset winding, the count wheel and escapement both set on the back plate, the outside count wheel with star crossings, a unique pin wheel escapement that leaves the pendulum free from the escape wheel during most of its oscillation, the impulse being imparted on one side only, impulse and locking pallets of highly polished facetted steel, the ingenious escapement beating dead centre seconds on the dial; the half-second bimetallic pendulum with knife-edge suspension and micrometre adjustment to the crutch, with a heavy brass bob, the movement’s shaped front plate, following the outline of the dials, bearing the motion work for the eight dials and supporting the arbor with universal joints for the polished steel whirligig and the two fountains.

The separate movement animating the columns mounted in the clock’s base; the heavy brass plates with spring-driven movement wound on the right via a bevelled gear (the glazed dome is accordingly pierced with a hole) the animations activated on the hour or at will.

The highly decorative case surmounted by a gilt bronze Victory seated among the clouds and blowing a trumpet ; the dials adorned with swags of fruit and foliage, backed by pedestals with berry finials and flanked by two columns (44 cm in height each) comprising two twisting spirals around a gilt wood core terminating in matching spheres with bud finials, the columns driven by a movement in the clock base, each column rotating by means of a vertical lever in the gilt bronze base.

When the lever is pushed a polished steel whirligig with mirrored glass background, set above a twin-headed fountain with winged leopard heads mounted with twisted steel rods to imitate running water, is simultaneously activated. The shaped rectangular base features a central palmette frieze flanked by ribbon-tied wreaths; it is raised on six turned feet.

The central sprung panel opens when a lever is pulled, revealing the spring-barrel movement for the animations. Mounted on a substantial oak mahogany-veneered baseboard supported on flattened ball feet, the underside set with a facetted sprung steel shaft and cone terminal, activating the automata work by means of a handle that activates a lever and thence the columns, whirligig and fountain.

The slightly later panelled glass dome, made up of thirteen glazed sections surmounted by a gilt brass urn finial has two holes pierced in the front and one on the right side to permit the winding of the going train, striking train and the automata train, the baseboard with a recess that was widened to accommodate the shaped glass cover.

This piece was almost certainly made for the second Exposition Publique des Produits de L’Industrie Française that was held in the courtyard of the Louvre, from September 19 – 25, 1801. At this exhibition François-Joseph Hartmann won an honourable mention for “a clock with eight dials, very well made. It indicates the sunrise and sunset, and the moon phases.”

Literature: “Exposition Publique des Produits de l’Industrie Française, Catalogue des productions industrielles qui seront exposées dans la grande Cour du Louvre, pendant les cinq jours complémentaires de l’an 9; avec les noms, départements et demeures des Manufacturiers et Artistes admis à l’Exposition, Paris, Imprimerie de la République, Fructidor an IX”, p. 23, noting: Hartmann, horloger, rue de Vannes, n° 9, à Paris: Pendule à huit cadrans. (Paris, Archives Nationales, F12, 985).

This exceptional multi-dial clock by François-Joseph Hartmann (active 1793-1830) is of great historical importance, for it features technical complications in a highly decorative case. Its enamel work was done by Joseph Coteau (1740-1812), one of the most renowned dial painters; it includes rarely seen automaton work, and features both Republican and Gregorian calendars, as well as the age and phases of the moon, the times of sunrise and sunset, the equation of time, world time and the signs of the zodiac. It seems clear that it was displayed at the Paris Exposition des Produits de l’Industrie Française in September 1801. Evidence of this appears on the dials, several of which bear the date ‘an 8’, (1801) and is also supported by the honourable mention won by Hartmann for a clock of this description.

The exhibition was held in the courtyard in front of the Louvre, where 104 booths were set up (Hartmann occupied booth no. 63). Following in the wake of the first Exposition Publique des Produits de l’Industrie Française in 1798, this exhibition was very important. Organised on the instigation of Napoleon Bonaparte, it was held to encourage the productivity of France’s burgeoning industries in the face of competition from other countries, and particularly from England. It is recorded that Napoleon, Sieyes and Le Brun all visited the exhibition and one imagines that Hartmann demonstrated his clock for them.

The clock has an important provenance, having been conserved by the same European noble family since the 19th century. For at least a century it was carefully stored in a cupboard in the defunct ballroom of the family home, which explains its excellent, nearly original, condition.

Provenance: Owned by the same European noble family since the nineteenth century.

François-Joseph Hartmann or Hartemann (active circa 1793-1830) François-Joseph Hartmann, who was very likely of Swiss descent, holds a special place in Parisian horology. His last name, which is quite rare in Paris, does however appear in a few notarized documents from the late 18th century and the early 19th century, including the July 1790 death certificate of Henriette Hartmann, daughter of the Bernese merchant Jean-Rodolphe Hartmann and Marguerite Wagner (Archives nationales, Minutier Central des notaires, Etude XLVII/432). The probate inventory of cabinetmaker Jean-Georges Hartmann was drawn up in Paris several years later (Archives nationales, Minutier Central des notaires, Etude LXXXVII/1423/A). The clockmaker himself is rarely mentioned in contemporary documents. The first time he appears is in a six-year and three month sublease rental contract for lodgings including a shop, a back room, a bedroom and a basement, which was signed by Edme-Pierre Seguin and François-Joseph Hartemann, clockmaker, and his wife Marie-Louise Guitarde, who were then living in the rue de Vannes (MC/ET/IX/843, 27 vendémiaire an II). Some twenty years later, his name appeared in a contract dated July 23, 1814, recording the sale of a hôtel garni at 54, rue Neuve Saint-Eustache, for the sum of 9500 francs. In it he was described as the “propriétaire” (owner), suggesting he had temporarily ceased his activity as a clockmaker (MC/ET/IV/1033). The weddings of his two children, Louise-Thérèse and Jean-François, took place on November 5, 1825 in the Saint-Eustache parish, and on September 27, 1832 in the Bonne Nouvelle quarter, respectively. Around 1820, after the restoration of the monarchy, Hartmann once again opened a workshop at 25, rue du Grand-Hurleur, again working as a clockmaker. He was mentioned in the Bulletin de la Société d’encouragement pour l’industrie nationale during their general meeting of April 27, 1825 as having made “Two very fine gilt bronze clocks, with several dials, indicating the seconds, date, and the positions of the stars …”. The following year, he was mentioned in the “General alphabetical list of the members of the Société d’encouragement pour l’industrie nationale on January 1st, 1826 followed by that of its foreign correspondents”. In 1827, the 10th volume of the “British Review or choice of articles translated from the best periodicals of Great Britain” mentioned at length his book “Le Tems vrai et le Tems moyen”, which discussed the causes of the apparent irregularity of watches and clocks based on solar time. His career may be divided into two periods, first from 1793 to 1813, and then from 1820 to 1830, the first period being the most remarkable. During those twenty or so years, he designed movements with complications that were housed in unusual and often unique cases that resulted from his collaboration with the finest contemporary Parisian artisans. Among the rare known examples of his work, one example with an architectural case featuring lictors’ fasces and Masonic emblems is illustrated in J-D. Augarde, Les ouvriers du Temps, La pendule à Paris de Louis XIV à Napoléon Ier, p. 78, fig. 48. A second clock, with five dials and allegorical figures, is illustrated in P. Kjellberg, Encyclopédie de la pendule française du Moyen Age à nos jours, Paris, 1997, p. 400.

Object Name: Exceptional Mutli-dial automaton skeleton clock
Artist name: François-Joseph Hartmann
Reference: R009
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