Rare gilt and patinated mantel bronze “pendule au jeune nègre”, Empire period

Jean-Simon Deverberie

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Jean-Simon Deverberie (1764-1824)
Rare gilt and patinated mantel bronze“pendule au jeune nègre”
Paris, Empire period, circa 1815
Height 45 cm, width 19 cm

A fine and rare gilt and patinated bronze “pendule au jeune nègre” by Deverberie et Compagnie, the dial signed « à Paris ». The white enamel dial indicates the Roman numeral hours and the Arabic minutes by means of two hands made of gilt bronze. The eight-day going movement, with circular brass plates and spring barrels for both trains, has an anchor escapement with silk thread suspension; it strikes the hours and half hours on a single bell, with outside count wheel.

The cylindrical gilt bronze clock case rests on a tasselled cushion placed on the head of the patinated bronze figure of an African boy with white enamel eyes. The boy is wearing a gilt bronze tasselled loincloth, with a double necklace of gilt beads. He stands on a round splayed gilt bronze base decorated with beaded borders and gilt foliate swags suspended from satyr masks; the base is raised on three lion paw feet.

A nearly identical clock with matching candelabra, today in the Musée François Duesberg in Mons, is illustrated in Elke Niehüser, “Die Französische Bronzeuhr”, 1997, p. 161, pl. 262. An clock by Deverberie et Compagnie that is almost identical, but lacking the quiver and arm bracelets, is pictured in Pierre Kjellberg, “Encyclopédie de la Pendule Française du Moyen Age au XXe Siècle”, 1997, p. 348, pl. A.

Among the other closely comparable examples, one was formerly in the Fermor-Hesketh Collection, 1988; another was shown in 1991 in the Queen’s Gallery at Buckingham Palace in London.

The model for the present clock was created at the end of the 18th century by Jean-Simon Deverberie. His designs for the present clock and several other similar ones are preserved in the Paris Bibliothèque Nationale’s Cabinet des Estampes.

Deverberie seems to have had a predilection for the theme of the noble savage, as expressed in the work of Jean-Jacques Rousseau and other 18th century writers, which, by influencing public opinion, were instrumental in the 1793 abolition of slavery by the Convention. The idea of the noble savage continued to be fashionable during the entire Empire period, despite Napoleon’s reintroduction of slavery and the slave trade in 1802. Among the writers inspired by the theme were Daniel Defoe (Robinson Crusoe, 1719), Jonathan Swift (Gulliver’s Travels, 1724), Bernardin de Saint Pierre (Paul and Virginie, 1787) and Chateaubriand (Atala, 1801).

The first clock case made by Deverberie on this theme was “La négresse”, with a movement by Furet and Godon; in 1784 the clock was presented to Queen Marie-Antoinette. The present design, dating from circa 1799, is from the same period as the   “pendule au sauvage” by Deverberie known as “L’Amérique”, of which the Musée Duesberg in Mons conserves an example. It features a young woman seated beside a palm tree, with a nearby alligator. Other celebrated Deverberie models on the same theme include his pendule “L’Afrique”, featuring a half-draped huntress seated beside a panther.
Jean-Simon Deverberie (1764-1824) was an extremely successful designer, bronze manufacturer and marchand-mercier. Until 1800 he was recorded in the rue Barbette; four years later he was at Boulevard du Temple and from 1812 until 1824 his business Deverberie & Compagnie was based at rue des Fosses-du-Temple. Deverberie was the most important artists of his time to create a series of bronzes and almost certainly the first to make a clock case celebrating the theme of the “noble savage”.

Object Name: Rare gilt and patinated mantel bronze “pendule au jeune nègre”, Empire period
Artist name: Jean-Simon Deverberie
Reference: P197
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