Fine Chased, Gilt, and Patinated Bronze Mantel Clock “The Coffee Bearer”, Directoire period
Call +33 1 45 61 44 55
Model Attributed to Louis-Simon Deverberie
Fine Chased, Gilt, and Patinated Bronze Mantel Clock “The Coffee Bearer”
Paris, Directoire period, circa 1795-1800
Height 29 cm; width 29 cm; depth 9.5 cm
The round enamel dial indicates the Roman numeral hours and the Arabic quarter hours and minute graduations by means of two gilt bronze hands; it is set in a gilt bronze barrel into which a young black man, barefoot and shirtless and holding a stick, pours a sack of coffee as he looks toward the spectator. His face is very expressive and greatly contribute to the clock’s realism. On the other side of the barrel, a naturalistic palm tree lends balance to the composition. The octagonal chased and gilt bronze base is decorated with bas-reliefs depicting bees and two young black children who are gathering twigs together. The base is raised upon five oval bead-decorated feet.
The black man as “noble savage” was rarely used as a decorative theme in French or European horological creations before the late 18th century. It was not until the end of the Ancien Régime – and precisely during the final decade of the 18th century and the early 19th century- that the first clocks known as “au nègre “ or “au sauvage” began to appear. They reflect a philosophical movement expressed in literary and historical works such as Paul et Virginie by Bernardin de Saint-Pierre (which was published in 1787 and depicted the innocence of man); Atala by Chateaubriand (which restored the Christian ideal); and Daniel Defoe’s masterpiece Robinson Crusoe (published in 1719). The present clock depicts a young black slave such as those who worked in colonial plantations. It may be attributed to the bronzier Jean-Simon Deverberie.
Very few similar clocks are known to date. Among them, one example was sold by Sotheby’s, London, on December 5, 1980, lot 127; a second example is illustrated in P. Kjellberg, Encyclopédie de la pendule française du Moyen Age au XXe siècle, Paris, 1997, p. 344; a further similar clock, whose dial is signed Gamot à Lille, is illustrated in E. Niehüser, Die französische Bronzeuhr, Munich, 1997, p. 156.
Dominique and Chantal Fléchon, “La pendule au nègre”, in Bulletin de l’Association nationale des collectionneurs et amateurs d’horlogerie ancienne, Spring 1992, n° 63, p. 41.
Jean-Simon Deverberie (1764-1824) was an extremely successful designer, bronze manufacturer and marchand-mercier. Until 1800 he was recorded in the rue Barbette; four years later he was at Boulevard du Temple and from 1812 until 1824 his business Deverberie & Compagnie was based at rue des Fosses-du-Temple. Deverberie was the most important artists of his time to create a series of bronzes and almost certainly the first to make a clock case celebrating the theme of the “noble savage”.
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