Rare Gilt and Patinated Bronze Mantel Clock “The Rape of Europa”, Louis XV period
Call +33 1 45 61 44 55
Case attributed to Robert Osmond (1711-1789)
Rare Gilt and Patinated Bronze Mantel Clock
“The Rape of Europa”
Paris, Louis XV period, circa 1760.
Height 52 cm; width 36 cm; depth 23 cm.
- Very likely the collection of Prince Pierre Soltykoff (1804-1889).
- His posthumous sale, Paris, May 16-18, 1889, lot 251 (not illustrated): “Clock from the Louis XV period, representing the Rape of Europa. The bronzed bull stands on a plinth surrounded by rococo ornaments. On the animal’s back, the movement, framed by rococo ornaments, also of gilt bronze, is surmounted by the figure of Europa, who is seated and holds a festoon of flowers”.
The round white enamel dial, signed “Moisy à Paris”, indicates the Roman numeral hours and the Arabic numeral five-minute intervals by means of two pierced gilt bronze hands. It is set within a drum case decorated with C-scrolls and flowers that is surmounted by the figure of a woman seated on a cushion, with a drapery that is floating in the wind. She holds a rose garland that cascades down the side of the case. The drum case stands on the back of a magnificent patinated bronze bull with a curved tail, which raises its left front foot and turns its head toward the viewer. The naturalistic base is adorned with leafy bouquets, scrolls, and C-scrolls.
The mid-18th century was a particularly productive period in the French decorative arts. Everything converged to encourage the emergence of extraordinary talents and draw the finest European artists and artisans to the French capital to work for the influential connoisseurs and collectors who lived there. The clock model depicting the rapt of the nymph Europa by Zeus, who had metamorphosed into a bull, was created within this context by the bronze caster Robert Osmond, one of the most important creators of clock and cartel cases of the period. Osmond had previously created a larger model in which two female figures were seated on either side of the bull. He produced two versions of that model, featuring variations in the sculpture of the animal. Three examples are known of the first, in which the bull is more massive. One such example is illustrated in P. Kjellberg, Encyclopédie de la pendule française du Moyen Age au XXe siècle, Paris, 1997, p. 133. A second appears in G. and A. Wannenes, Les plus belles françaises, De Louis XIV à l’Empire, Florence, 2013, p. 89. One further clock, which is set on a base containing a musical movement, is in the British Royal collection (see C. Jagger, Royal Clocks, The British Monarchy and its Timekeepers 1300-1900, London, 1983, p. 140). In the second variation, the bull is more massive and powerful. The present clock is an example of that variation, as are two other clocks: one example, signed “Osmond”, is in the Aschaffenburg Palace (illustrated in H. Ottomeyer and P. Pröschel, Vergoldete Bronzen, Die Bronzearbeiten des Spätbarock und Klassizismus, Band I, Munich, 1986, p. 125, fig. 2.8.7). A second example, which probably belonged to the Duke of Richelieu in 1788, is in the J. Paul Getty Museum in Malibu (illustrated in G. Wilson and P. Friess, European Clocks in the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, 1996, p. 102-107).
The “Rape of Europa” clock rapidly became a success with important Parisian collectors. Taking advantage of the popularity of the animal-themed clocks created by his colleague and rival Jean-Joseph de Saint-Germain, Robert Osmond - perhaps with the help of his nephew Jean-Baptiste – decided to revise the large model to obtain a perfectly balanced composition. The present clock is an example of the new version he produced. In this version the magnificent patinated bronze bull stands on a base containing no other figures. The position of the nymph Europa is inversed so that she is turning to her left.
Jean Moisy (1714-1782)
Having become a master clockmaker in March 1753, he was one of the most important Parisian clockmakers of the 18th century. He worked with the bronze casters Caffieri and Osmond, delivering two clocks to King Louis XV in the Château de Saint-Hubert. Through the intermediary of the great marchands-merciers of the time, Moisy possessed clientele made up of influential people, including members of the aristocracy such as the Duke de Praslin, the Prince de Talmont and the Duchess d’Enville, and figures from the world of finance, such as Randon de Boisset, Marin de La Haye and Paris de Montmartel.
Robert Osmond (1711-1789)
French bronze-caster Robert Osmond was born in Canisy, near Saint-Lô; he began his apprenticeship in the workshop of Louis Regnard, maître fondeur en terre et en sable, and became a master bronzier in Paris in 1746. He is recorded as working in the rue des Canettes in the St Sulpice parish, moving to the rue de Mâcon in 1761. Robert Osmond became a juré, thus gaining a certain degree of protection of his creative rights. In 1753, he sent for his nephew in Normandy, and in 1761, the workshop, which by that time had grown considerably, moved to the rue de Macon. The nephew, Jean-Baptiste Osmond (1742-after 1790) became a master in 1764 and as of that date worked closely with his uncle, to such a degree that it is difficult to differentiate between the contributions of each.
Robert appears to have retired around 1775. Jean-Baptiste, who remained in charge of the workshop after the retirement of his uncle, encountered difficulties and went bankrupt in 1784. Robert Osmond died in 1789.
Prolific bronze casters and chasers, the Osmonds worked with equal success in both the Louis XV and the Neo-classical styles. Prized by connoisseurs of the period, their work was distributed by clockmakers and marchands-merciers. Although they made all types of furnishing objects, including fire dogs, wall lights and inkstands, the only extant works by them are clocks, including one depicting the Rape of Europe (Getty Museum, California) in the Louis XV style and two important Neo-classical forms, of which there are several examples, as well as a vase with lions' heads (Musée Condé, Chantilly and the Cleveland Museum of Art) and a cartel-clock with chased ribbons (examples in the Stockholm Nationalmuseum; Paris, Nissim de Camondo Museum). A remarkable clock decorated with a globe, cupids and a Sèvres porcelain plaque (Paris, Louvre) is another of their notable works.
Specialising at first in the rocaille style, in the early 1760’s they turned to the new Neo-classical style and soon numbered among its greatest practitioners. They furnished cases to the best clockmakers of the period, such as Montjoye, for whom they made cases for cartonnier and column clocks, the column being one of the favourite motifs of the Osmond workshop.
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