Important Gilt Bronze Mantel Clock “The Victory of Science”, early Louis XVI period
Call +33 1 45 61 44 55
Case by Robert Osmond
Important Gilt Bronze Mantel Clock
“The Victory of Science”
Paris, early Louis XVI period, circa 1775
Height 52 cm; width 58.5cm; depth 15.5 cm
The enamel dial, signed “Robin à Paris”, indicates the Arabic numeral hours, fifteen-minute intervals, and date. It is housed in a very finely chased matte and burnished gilt bronze architectural case. The arched pediment, adorned with egg-and-dart friezes and stylized motifs, is supported by two winged children who are seated on either side of the dial; a flower and leaf garland is draped over their shoulders. The clock is surmounted by two other children on a drapery, the first of whom, a young girl who is drawing, is an allegory of Science. The second child, a winged putto, places a laurel crown on her head. The rectangular base with protruding elements is decorated with matted reserves. It is set on a blue turquin marble base that is adorned with bead friezes and low-relief scenes depicting putti playing among clouds. The clock rests upon six flattened feet that are embellished by bands of plain molding.
This model was immensely popular among Parisian horological enthusiasts during the last third of the 18th century. Its composition was based on a drawing that is today in the Institut national d’Histoire de l’Art in Paris. Osmond made several versions of it, featuring variations (see H. Ottomeyer and P. Pröschel, Vergoldete Bronzen, Band I, Munich, 1986, p. 228). We know of three examples which feature only the two surmounting putti: two of these are part of the Mobilier national, one having been delivered in 1778 to Madame Royale in Versailles (see Le château de Versailles raconte le Mobilier national, 2011, p. 153-155); the third example was commissioned by the Count d’Artois for the Palais du Temple in 1777 (see La folie d’Artois à Bagatelle, 1988, p. 108). A third clock of this type, whose dial is signed “Lepaute de Belle Fontaine”, is in the British Royal Collections in Windsor Castle (Inv. RCIN30021). An example that is similar to the present clock, i.e. with four putti, is in the Jacquemart-André Museum in Paris (illustrated in P. Verlet, Les bronzes dorés du XVIIIe siècle, Paris, 1987, p. 117, fig. 148)
Robert Osmond (1711-1789)
Was one of the most important Parisian bronze casters of the final third of the 18th century. Having become a "maître-fondeur en terre et sable" in 1746, and a juré of the founders’ guild in 1756, he enjoyed great fame and renown throughout his career. Osmond, who was influenced by the work of his fellow bronze caster Caffieri, was among the avant-garde in the renewal of the French decorative arts that began in the mid 1760s. His work was especially appreciated by the important collectors of the day, which led to the rapid development of his workshop. Assisted by his nephew Jean-Baptiste Osmond, who became a master founder in 1764 and ran the workshop after his death in 1789, Osmond’s clientele included the fashionable elite of the time.
Robert Robin (1741-1799) is one of the most important Parisian clockmakers of the late 18th century. Having received the titles of Valet de Chambre-Horloger Ordinaire du Roi et de la Reine in 1783 and 1786, he had an extraordinary career, distinguished himself by his exceptional contribution to the progress of time measurement during his lifetime.
In 1778 the French Académie des Sciences approved two of his inventions, one of which led to the construction of an astronomic clock representing a meridian drawn on a pyramid, which was acquired that year by the Menus Plaisirs on behalf of Louis XVI. Robin published a “Description historique et mécanique” of the clock. He constructed astronomic mantel regulators with compensation balance, which the Marquis de Courtanvaux, one of the period’s most important connoisseurs of precision horology, was among the first to acquire. During the Terreur he made decimal watches and clocks. He is recorded successively at the Grande rue du faubourg Saint-Honoré (1772), rue des Fossés-Saint-Germain l'Auxerrois (1775), rue Saint-Honoré à l'Hôtel d'Aligre (1778) and in the Galeries du Louvre in 1786.
Robin housed his mantel regulators in sober, elegant cases that were remarkably modern in style. He worked with excellent artisans such as Robert and Jean Baptiste Osmond, Pierre Philippe Thomire, E. Roy, J.L. Beaucour, P. Delacroix, François Rémond, Claude Galle, Balthazar Lieutaud, E. Levasseur, J.H. Riesener, Jean-Ferdinand Schwerdfeger and Adam Weisweiler for his cases; Barbezat, Edmé-Portail Barbichon, Dubuisson, Cave, Merlet and Coteau for his dials, and the Richards and the Montginots for his springs.
Robin’s sons, Nicolas Robert (1775-1812) and Jean-Joseph (1781-1856), were both fine clockmakers who continued their father’s business.
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