Rare Gilt Bronze “Three Graces” Clock with Two Dials, early Louis XVI period

Pierre-Martin Merra

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Rare Gilt Bronze “Three Graces” Clock with Two Dials
Paris, early Louis XVI period, circa 1775
Height 52 cm; base: 17 cm x 17 cm

-Peter Heuer and Klaus Maurice, European Pendulum Clocks, Decorative Instruments of Measuring Time, Munich, 1988, p. 46, fig. 68 (illustration)
-Elke Niehüser, Die französische Bronzeuhr, Eine Typologie der figürlichen Darstellungen, Munich, 1997, p. 229, fig. 633 (illustration).

The round white enamel dials, each signed “Merra à Paris”, indicate the Roman numeral hours and Arabic five-minute intervals by means of pierced gilt bronze hands. It is housed in a finely chased matte gilt bronze case. The clock is surmounted by a winged putto who is seated among clouds that are adorned with sunrays, and holds a wreath and a medallion bearing the portrait of King Henri IV in profile, against a matted ground. The movement is housed in an elongated vase that is decorated with fluting and rests upon a fluted column that is supported by three female figures. Lightly clad in draperies and holding rose garlands, the three young women are an allegory of the Three Graces. The round plinth is adorned with a stylized leaf frieze, a band chased with bunches of grapes and grape vines, and a laurel leaf and seed torus. It rests on an ebony-veneered shaped quadrangular base that is decorated with rosettes and scrolls centered by Bacchus masks. It is set on a thin plinth.

A variant of a successful model created in the late 1760’s by the bronze caster Vion, the present clock is highly unusual in that it features two dials, making it a very rare model. Today only a few similar clocks are known; they feature variations in the treatment of their bases and movements. Among them, one example whose movement is signed “Cronier” is illustrated in P. Kjellberg, Encyclopédie de la pendule française du Moyen Age à nos jours, Paris, 1997, p. 257, fig. F. A second example was offered at the sale of the collection of Leon Lowenstein (sold Paris, Me Oudard, December 17, 1935, lot 119). A third such clock, bearing the initials of Empress Catherine II of Russia, is today in the Catherine Palace in Tsarskoe Selo, today the town of Pushkin.

Pierre-Martin Merra
Was one of the most important Parisian clockmakers in the second half of the 18th century. After becoming a master on November 25, 1773, he opened workshops in the rue aux Ours, the rue Saint-Denis, and the passage de l’ancien Grand Cerf. He met with immediate success among important horological collectors. During the late 18th century examples of his work were mentioned in the probate inventories of the wife of Laurent-Gabriel Mouchy, Antoine-Denis d’Alsace d’Hénin-Liétard, and Charles-Louis-François-Antoine, Marquis de Montaigu.

Object Name: Rare Gilt Bronze “Three Graces” Clock with Two Dials, early Louis XVI period
Artist name: Pierre-Martin Merra
Reference: P152
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