Exceptional Monumental Gilt and Patinated Bronze and Italian Red Griotte Marble Clock, Empire period
Call +33 1 45 61 44 55
Attributed to Claude Galle
Exceptional Monumental Gilt and Patinated Bronze and Italian Red Griotte Marble Clock
Paris, Empire period, circa 1805-1810
Height 86 cm; width 26.2 cm; depth 19.2 cm
The round gilt bronze dial features the signs of the zodiac and four allegorical female figures representing the Seasons against a matte ground. On twelve enamel cartouches, it indicates the Arabic numeral hours and the outermost minutes graduations by means of two blued steel Breguet hands. The dial, in the form of a shield, is held by a magnificent standing figure that represents the goddess Athena. She is dressed in a short classical tunic and a cloak, and in her right hand she holds a lance that is adorned with a caduceus, an olive branch, a grain sheaf, and stiff leaves. With a serious expression, she turns her head slightly to the left and is wearing a crested helmet that is adorned with laurel garlands. The quadrangular Italian red griotte marble plinth is embellished with applied motifs including a lyre, a manuscript, a trophy of weapons and shields, helmets and lances, wreaths, palmettes and flowers. The base, with a frieze of two rows of stiff leaves with acanthus leaves at the corners, supports the clock.
This spectacular clock model was probably created by Claude Galle during the early years of the 19th century. Galle was one of the most famous Parisian bronze casters of the period. As of the beginning of the 19th century, the model was produced, often with variations in the treatment of the composition and in various sizes. One smaller example, in which the figure of Athena is facing front and the shield, forming the dial, is hexagonal, formerly belonged to the Andrés de Ribera Foundation in Jerez de la Frontera (illustrated in L. Montanes, Catalogo illustrado del Museo de Relojes, Fundacion Andrés de Ribera, 1982, p. 138, fig. 249). A second clock, also presenting several differences, is in the Spanish Royal Collection (see J. Ramon Colon de Carvajal, Catalogo de Relojes del Patrimonio nacional, Madrid, 1987, p. 245, catalogue n° 229). A handful of clocks are identical to the present one; one example entered the collection of the Mobilier national in Paris in 1932 and is shown in M-F. Dupuy-Baylet, Pendules du Mobilier national 1800-1870, Dijon, 2006, p. 115, catalogue n° 50. A second clock is now in the Spanish Royal Collection (see J. Ramon Colon de Carvajal, op.cit., p. 185, catalogue n° 165). A third example, which Claude Galle’s son delivered to the Swedish Crown in 1823, is on display in the Royal Palace in Stockholm (shown in H. Ottomeyer and P. Pröschel, Vergoldete Bronzen, Die Bronzearbeiten des Spätbarock und Klassizismus, Band I, Munich, 1986, p. 397, fig. 5.18.12). One further comparable clock is in the collection of the Musée de Malmaison (illustrated in the exhibition catalogue La Mesure du Temps dans les collections du musée de Malmaison, RMN, Paris, 1991, p. 25, catalogue n° 16).
Claude Galle (1759 - 1815) One of the foremost bronziers and fondeur-ciseleurs of the late Louis XVI and Empire periods, Claude Galle was born at Villepreux near Versailles. He served his apprenticeship in Paris under the fondeur Pierre Foy, and in 1784 married Foy’s daughter. In 1786 he became a maitre-fondeur. After the death of his father-in-law in 1788, Galle took over his workshop, soon turning it into one the finest, and employing approximately 400 craftsmen. Galle moved to Quai de la Monnaie (later Quai de l’Unité), and then in 1805 to 60 Rue Vivienne. The Garde-Meuble de la Couronne, under the direction of sculptor Jean Hauré from 1786-88, entrusted him with many commissions. Galle collaborated with many excellent artisans, including Pierre-Philippe Thomire, and furnished the majority of the furnishing bronzes for the Château de Fontainebleau during the Empire. He received many other Imperial commissions, among them light fittings, figural clock cases, and vases for the palaces of Saint-Cloud, the Trianons, the Tuileries, Compiègne, and Rambouillet. He supplied several Italian palaces, such as Monte Cavallo, Rome and Stupinigi near Turin. In spite of his success, and due in part to his generous and lavish lifestyle, as well as to the failure of certain of his clients (such as the Prince Joseph Bonaparte) to pay what they owed, Galle often found himself in financial difficulty. Galle’s business was continued by his son after his death by his son, Gérard-Jean Galle (1788-1846). Today his work may be found in the world’s most important museums and collections, those mentioned above, as well as the Musée National du Château de Malmaison, the Musée Marmottan in Paris, the Museo de Reloges at Jerez de la Frontera, the Residenz in Munich, and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.
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