Rare Gilt and Patinated Bronze Trumpeting Elephant Mantel Clock, Louis XV period
Call +33 1 45 61 44 55
Case by Jean-Joseph de Saint-Germain
Rare Gilt and Patinated Bronze Trumpeting Elephant Mantel Clock
Paris, Louis XV period, circa 1750
Height 47.5 cm; width 37.5 cm; depth 16.5 cm
The back of the base stamped: “ST.GERMAIN”
The round enamel dial, signed “Barat à Paris”, indicates the Roman numeral hours and the Arabic numeral five-minute intervals by means of two pierced gilt bronze hands. The case is made of finely chased gilt and patinated bronze. The movement, whose back plate is also signed “Barat à Paris”, is housed in a drum case that is adorned with flower and leaf garlands; the case is surmounted by a winged putto who is sitting on drapery and rocks; he holds a tablet in his left hand and brandishes a sundial in his right hand. The bezel is adorned with bulrushes and acanthus leaves; the back of the movement is protected by a copper plaque pierced with flower and leaf branches. The drum case is supported on the back of a magnificent standing elephant, which raises its trunk and opens its mouth as if it were trumpeting. The pachyderm is standing on a shaped rococo base that imitates a rocky terrain; it is decorated with C scrolls and wave motifs.
The mid-18th century was a time of great invention in the French decorative arts. Everything possible was done to encourage talented artisans and to draw the finest European artists and artisans to work for important Parisian collectors. The present clock was made in this historical context. Its unusual design, featuring an elephant – then an exotic animal - is indicative of the attraction that Asia, the Americas, and Africa held for wealthy French connoisseurs, who had been fascinated by the accounts of travelers to foreign countries and by engravings of far-off countries. In the field of horology, these “exotic” motifs were quickly assimilated, leading to the creation in the mid 18th century of luxury clocks whose movements were supported by elephants, rhinoceroses and lions, and were surmounted by exotic birds, monkeys, Indians and winged putti. One elephant clock with a monkey holding an umbrella is in the Royal Spanish Collection (shown in J. Ramon Colon de Carvajal, Catalogo de Relojes del Patrimonio nacional, Madrid, 1987, p. 23, catalogue n° 4); another such clock was in the collection of the Princes of Hesse in the Fasanerie Palace in Fulda (illustrated in the exhibition catalogue Gehäuse der Zeit, Uhren aus fünf Jahrhunderten im Besitz der Hessischen Hausstiftung, 2002, p. 59). One further similar clock, with a rhinoceros surmounted by a young Indian, is illustrated in P. Kjellberg, Encyclopédie de la pendule française du Moyen Age au XXe siècle, Les éditions de l’Amateur, Paris, 1997, p. 129.
The model of the present clock, created by bronze caster Jean-Joseph de Saint-Germain, became very popular among the important Parisian collectors of the 18th century. Today only a few rare identical clocks are known to exist, some of which feature music boxes in their bases. One such clock, with a dial that is signed “Moisy à Paris” and a base stamped “St Germain”, was formerly in the Caroll Gallery in Munich (see R. Mühe and Horand M. Vogel, Horloges anciennes, Manuel des horloges de table, des horloges murales et des pendules de parquet européennes, Fribourg, 1978, p. 107, n° 131, and H. Ottomeyer and P. Pröschel, Vergoldete Bronzen, Die Bronzearbeiten des Spätbarock und Klassizismus, Band I, Munich, 1986, p. 123, fig. 2.8.3). Two examples were sold at auction: one, formerly in the Florence J. Gould collection, was sold by Sotheby’s in Monaco on June 25, 1984, lot 715. The other, formerly the property of Count François de Salverte, was sold in Dijon in November 1997. Two comparable clocks are today in public French or Belgian collections: the first, whose dial was signed “Viger à Paris”, was given by the Princes of Ligne to the Treasury of the Tournai Cathedral (illustrated in P. Verlet, Les bronzes dorés français du XVIIIe siècle, Editions Picard, Paris, 1999, p. 192, fig. 219). The second, which lacks its original dial, was purchased by the Imperial Garde-meuble in 1865 for Fontainebleau Castle (illustrated in Tardy, La pendule française, Ire Partie: De l’Horloge gothique à la Pendule Louis XV, 1967, p. 173). One clock, almost certainly identical, was estimated at 108 livres in the probate inventory of the Duchess de Brancas in 1784: “A cartel clock signed Jean-Baptiste Baillon, mounted on an elephant surmounted by a small cherub”.
Barat, Pierre-Philippe (1715-1779)
Pierre-Philippe Barat may be considered one of the most important Parisian clockmakers of the reign of Louis XV. Mentioned as an apprentice of Nicolas Brodon in 1730, he became a master on May 5, 1742 and opened a workshop in the Marché Neuf. He is later cited in the Place Dauphine toward the mid 18th century. He married the daughter of a master clockmaker and quickly gained renown, becoming a “Garde-visiteur” of the guild from 1757 to 1759 and from 1764 to 1766. He retired in 1770 and sold his business to clockmaker Jean Michel for the sum of 8943 livres. During the second half of the 18th century and the early years of the following century, several of his clocks were cited in the inventories of well-known collectors of the day: several pieces were briefly described in the collection of Prosecutor Guy Agier in 1773; in the collection of Rosalie Nettine, the widow of banker Jean-Joseph de Laborde; and in the collection of François-Camille, Prince of Lorraine in 1788.
Jean-Joseph de Saint-Germain (Paris 1719-1791)
He was probably the most renowned Parisian of the mid 18th century. Active as of 1742, he did become a master craftsman until July 1748. He became famous for his many clock and cartel cases, such as his Diana the Huntress (an example is in the Louvre Museum), the clock supported by two Chinamen (a similar example is in the Musée des Arts décoratifs in Lyon), as well as several clocks based on animal themes, including elephant and rhinoceros clocks (an example in the Louvre Museum). In the early 1760’s he played an important role in the renewal of the French decorative arts and the development of the Neo-classical style, an important example of which may be seen in his Genius of Denmark clock, made for Frederic V and based on a model by Augustin Pajou (1765, in the Amalienborg Palace, Copenhagen). Saint-Germain also made several clocks inspired by the theme of Learning, or Study, based on a model by Louis-Félix de La Rue (examples in the Louvre Museum, the Gulbenkian Foundation, Lisbon, and the Metropolitan Museum in New York). Along with his clock cases, Saint-Germain also made bronze furniture mounts, such as fire dogs, wall lights, and candelabra. His entire body of work bears witness to his remarkable skills as a chaser and bronzeworker, as well as to his extraordinary creativity. He retired in 1776.
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