Rare Mantel Clock with Gilt and Patinated Bronze Allegorical Figures, Louis XV period
Call +33 1 45 61 44 55
The Figures After Models Attributed to Etienne-Maurice Falconet
Rare Mantel Clock with Gilt and Patinated Bronze Allegorical Figures
Paris, Neoclassical period, late Louis XV period, circa 1765
Height 44 cm; width 45 cm; depth 15.5 cm
The round enamel dial, signed “Etienne Lenoir à Paris”, indicates the Roman numeral hours and the Arabic numeral five-minute intervals by means of two pierced gilt brass hands. The movement is housed in an architectural case featuring fluted pillars, a curved pediment decorated with a laurel torus and a capital surmounted by a gadrooned and fluted lidded urn with a leaf and seed finial. The urn’s handles are adorned with laurel leaf and seed garlands. Figures are seated on either side of the case. On one side, a lightly clad young woman plays with a dog, while on the other side, a young man sitting near a cornucopia places his finger in front of his lips. The neoclassical base features recessed friezes and rosettes, garlands of laurel leaves and seeds and a bearded and acanthus-coiffed mask. The clock is raised upon eight square feet with triple fluting.
The unusual design of this architectural clock is characteristic of the Parisian creations dating from the beginning of Neoclassicism in the mid 1760’s. In addition to the exceptional quality of its chasing and gilding, clearly done by exceptional artisans, stands out due to the two sculptural groups that adorn either side. The young woman may be considered an allegory of Fidelity, a virtue extolled by the marquise de Pompadour, mistress of Louis XV. The young man probably symbolises Discretion. Thus, although Time - symbolised by the dial - passes, it has no effect on faithful and discreet Love. The attribution of the figures to Etienne-Maurice Falconet (1716-1791) is based on the elegant treatment of the figures’ faces and bodies. Many of the sculptures today ascribed to Falconet show the same elegant treatment. A bronze group depicting Fidelity, probably originally placed on a clock identical to the present one, is in the Musée des Arts décoratifs in Paris (see L. Metman, Le Musée des Arts décoratifs, Le bronze, plate LXXXIV, fig. 839).
As of 1750, the signature “Etienne Lenoir” refers to the partnership between two of the most important Parisian clockmakers of the reign of Louis XV, Etienne II Lenoir (1699-1778) and his son Pierre-Etienne Lenoir (1724-after 1789). Having become master clockmakers in 1717 and 1743 respectively, the two men worked together for nearly two decades, making clocks and watches for the most influential French collectors, as well as for many of Europe’s most important courts, including those of Spain, Sweden, Naples and Saxony. Like most of the finest Parisian clockmakers of the time, the Lenoir maintained a close business relationship with the great marchands-merciers such as Julliot, Duvaux and Darnault. For their clock cases they called upon the period’s best artisans: the cabinetmakers Charles Cressent, Jacques Dubois and Jean-Pierre Latz, the enameller Martinière, and the bronziers Jean-Baptiste and Robert Osmond, the Caffieri and Jean-Joseph de Saint-Germain. Many of their pieces are today in important private collections and institutions, such as the former Rothschild collection in Waddesdon Manor, the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Getty Museum in Malibu, the Louvre Museum in Paris, and the Musée national du château in Versailles.
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