Rare Bisque Porcelain Mantel Clock from the Duc d’Angoulême’s Porcelain Factory, late Louis XVI period

Jean-Nicolas Schmit (d. circa 1820)
Paris, late Louis XVI period, circa 1785-1790
Height 47.5 cm; width 47 cm; depth 13 cm
L
e cadran circulaire émaillé, signé « Schmit à Paris », indique les heures en chiffres romains, les graduations des minutes par tranches de cinq, les quantièmes du mois et les secondes, et marque les phases de la lune sur un fond bleu azur étoilé dans un guichet en forme de croissant. Il est inscrit dans une caisse, entièrement réalisée en biscuit de porcelaine imitant le marbre blanc de Carrare, agrémentée de quelques ornements néoclassiques en bronze très finement ciselé et doré à rangs de perles, arabesques et frises de feuilles stylisées. Le mouvement est renfermé dans une boite circulaire posée sur un pilastre à cannelures flanqué de motifs à enroulements sur lesquels se tiennent deux jeunes enfants ailés et légèrement drapés qui tiennent, pour l’un, une palette de peintre, pour l’autre, un stylet et un parchemin, allégories de la Peinture et de la Poésie. Le tout repose sur une base quadrangulaire à côtés arrondis ornée en façade d’une frise en camaïeu de gris sur fond lie de vin représentant des putti musiciens dans des nuées entourant deux carrés décorés de motifs dans le même esprit. Enfin, quatre fortes pattes de lion à griffes saillantes supportent l’ensemble de la composition.
 
T
his fine clock is an example of the extraordinary inventiveness of Parisian horologists during the second half of the 18th century. These artists created exceptional works of the highest quality, using the rarest and most precious of materials. The present clock was produced by the Duc d’Angoulême’s porcelain factory, which was established under the Duc’s protection in 1781, and was run by Christophe Dihl and the Guérhards. In the late 18th century and during the reign of Napoleon Bonaparte, the factory became the principal competitor of the Sèvres Manufacture.

The clock’s unusual design, which relates to the theme of literature and the arts, is harmonious and perfectly balanced. Only three identical models are known; they feature variations in the treatment of the base. One clock, whose dial is signed “Schmit”, was sold at Sotheby’s, London, on May 17, 1968, lot 16; a second piece, with a dial also signed “Schmit”, was pictured in the magazine L’Estampille/L’Objet d’art, n° 290, April 1995, p. 24, fig. 2; a final example, today in a private collection, is illustrated in R. de Plinval de Guillebon, Les biscuits de porcelaine de Paris XVIIIe-XIXe siècles, Editions Faton, Dijon, 2012, p. 213.
 
J
ean-Nicolas Schmit (d. circa 1820)
Is one of the most important Parisian clockmakers of the late 18th century and early 19th centuries. After becoming a master in August 1781, he opened a workshop in the rue Betizy and won immediate renown among connoisseurs. Dihl and Guérhard, the directors of the Duc d’Angoulême’s porcelain factory, were impressed by his movements and purchased the majority of their clock movements from him. Contemporary documents mention the clockmaker’s work as being in the collections of the greatest art enthusiasts of the period. Clocks by him are included in the probate inventory of Jean-Etienne-Marie de Portalis, made a conseiller d’état by Napoléon, and in that of the wife of Louis-Marie-Bretagne-Dominique de Rohan-Chabot, Duc de Rohan and cousin of King Louis XV.

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Schmit Jean-Nicolas


Schmit Rare Bisque Porcelain Mantel Clock from the Duc d’Angoulême’s Porcelain Factory, late Louis XVI period