Exceptional Monumental Matte and Burnished Gilt and Patinated Bronze Clock “Allegories of Astronomy and History”, Louis XV-Louis XVI transition period
Call +33 1 45 61 44 55
« Lepaute Hger du Roi »
The Case attributed to Etienne Martincourt
The female figures after models attributed to Augustin Pajou
The counter-enamel signed by enameler Elie Barbezat
Exceptional Monumental Matte and Burnished Gilt and Patinated Bronze Clock “Allegories of Astronomy and History”
Paris, Louis XV-Louis XVI transition period, circa 1770
Height 68 cm; width 80 cm; depth 28.5 cm
- Pierre Kjellberg, Encyclopédie de la pendule française du Moyen Age au XXe siècle, Les éditions de l’Amateur, Paris, 1997, p. 262 (illustrated).
- Christian Baulez, “Martincourt et Riesener, Une collaboration fructueuse et méconnue”, in L’Estampille/L’Objet d’Art, n° 531, February 2017, p. 56-65
- Collection of Princess Cécile Murat, née Ney d’Elchengen (1867-1960)
- Sale of the collection of Princess Cécile Murat, Paris, Palais Galliera, Me Besançon, March 2, 1961, lot 64
- Sold Me Libert, Paris, December 2, 1994, lot 138
- In the home of Frank Partridge, London
- Private collection
The round enamel dial is signed “Lepaute Hr du Roy”, while the counter-enamel bears the name of the Parisian enameler Elie Barbezat. It indicates the Roman numeral hours and the Arabic numeral five-minute intervals by means of two pierced gilt bronze hands. The movement is housed in a superb architectural case that is made of finely chased patinated and gilt bronze with matte and burnished finishes. The dial is set within a column with a rounded pediment that is adorned with egg and dart and bead and olive friezes; a large laurel leaf garland adorns its lower portion. The clock is surmounted by a group of two putti seated on clouds, one of whom is tracing lines on a celestial globe. The shaped quadrangular base with rounded sides features reserve panels with leafy scrolling centered by a rooster with outstretched wings within a fluted frame with acanthus leaf spandrels. Allegorical female figures dressed in classical draperies are seated on either side of the dial. One, holding a celestial globe, represents Urania, the muse of Astronomy. The other, holding a rolled parchment, is Clio, the muse of History. The figures are on an oblong plinth of molded blue turquin marble.
The architectural design of the present clock, as well as its allegorical figures representing Urania, the muse of Astronomy, and Clio, the muse of History, represent a variation on a contemporary model that was presented to the public during an exhibition-sale on the premises of the clockmaker Lepaute in 1766: “N°6. A clock 27 pouces high and 22 wide, placed in a beautiful vase of antique form, surmounted by fruits and flowers, the dial surrounded by laurel garlands, the vase terminating in an egg supported by a round base adorned with molding; two figures seated on the clock’s base, Astronomy and Geography, are set on a bronze plateau that terminates in a half circle. Model by Martincourt, a very skillful chaser, 3000 livres”(Description de plusieurs ouvrages d’Horlogerie par Le Paute, Horologer du Roi, rue Saint-Honoré, près la Croix du Trahoir, A Paris). One clock of this same model, signed by Lepaute and appearing to correspond to the 1766 description, is illustrated in P. Kjellberg, Encyclopédie de la pendule française du Moyen Age au XXe siècle, Paris, 1997, p. 215. A second example, almost certainly the model acquired by Louis XVI in the mid 1770s for the Salon du Conseil in the Tuileries Palace, is today in the J. Paul Getty Museum in Malibu (illustrated in G. Wilson, D. Harris Cohen and P. Friess, European Clocks in the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, 1996, p. 114-123, catalogue n° 16). A drawing attributed to Jean-Démosthène Dugourc, depicting a clock on a monumental arabesque-decorated base, is in the Institut National d’Histoire de l’Art in Paris (see the exhibition catalogue Ferdinand Berthoud 1727-1807, Horloger mécanicien du roi et de la marine, Musée international d’Horlogerie, La Chaux-de-Fonds, 1984, p. 117, fig. 43).
A clock contemporary to this model, whose upper central portion is identical to that of the present clock, is in the de Young Museum in San Francisco. Finally, during this same period, the Lepaute-Martincourt partnership created one of their most successful models. Quite similar to the present clock, it stood until 1960 in one of the salons of the Parisian home of Princess Cécile Murat; she was the daughter of Michel Ney d’Elchengen, the 3rdDuke d’Elchengen, and Marguerite Furtado-Heine. In 1884 she married Joachim Napoléon, the 5thPrince Murat (1856-1932). Today, only two other identical clocks – though featuring variations, particularly in the treatment of their bases - are known. The first, whose dial is signed by Jean-Baptiste Dutertre and appears to be of much poorer quality than the others, was sold in Monaco in 1982 (illustrated in E. Niehüser, Die französische Bronzeuhr, Eine Typologie der figürlichen Darstellungen, Munich, 1997, p. 217, fig. 408, and in H. Ottomeyer and P. Pröschel, Vergoldete Bronzen, Die Bronzearbeiten des Spätbarock und Klassizismus, Band I, Munich, 1986, p. 296, fig. 4.18.3). The second, whose dial is signed by the clockmaker Lepaute and the enameler Joseph Coteau, has a bleu turquin marble case and features certain differences in its gilt bronze mounts. No doubt formerly part of the Russian Imperial Collections, it is today in Tsarskoe Selo Palace near Saint Petersburg (illustrated in Tatiana V. Serpinskaya, Fine Art Bronze in the Collections of Tsarskoye Selo, Aurora Art Publishers, Saint Petersburg, 2009, p. 52-53).
Etienne Martincourt (circa 1730-1796)
Was one of the most important Parisian caster-chasers of the second half of the 18th century. He became a master founder in July 1762, the following year becoming master sculptor and painter of the Académie de Saint-Luc. He appears to have rapidly gained fame, for as early as 1766, during a private exhibition-sale held in the workshops of the famous clockmaker to the king Jean-André Lepaute,two clocks were mentioned whose models are attributed to Martincourt. For nearly two decades, Martincourt had a large and wealthy clientele in Paris, working for the Duchess de Mazarin and collaborating with Jean-Henri Riesener, cabinetmaker to Queen Marie-Antoinette, with whom he made some of the greatest masterpieces of the 18th century in France. Among these was the jewelry casket made in 1787 for the Countess de Provence in the Château de Versailles; that piece is today in the Royal British Collection.
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