Rare Gilt Bronze Mantel Clock “The American Indian”, Directoire period

Nicolas-Pierre-François Dubuc

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Dubuc Ainé à Paris
Attributed to Jean-Simon Deverberie
Rare Gilt Bronze Mantel Clock
“The American Indian”
Paris, Directoire period, circa 1799
Height 46 cm; width 37 cm; depth 15 cm

A very fine Empire gilt and patinated bronze “Pendule à L’Amérique”, The round enamel dial, signed “ Dubuc Ainé à Paris”, indicates the Roman numeral hours and the Arabic numeral fifteen-minute intervals by means of two gilt bronze hands
. The eight-day going movement, with anchor escapement and silk thread suspension, strikes the hour and half hour on a single bell, with outside count wheel.

The case, attributed to Jean-Simon Deverberie, is surmounted by the seated figure of a half-draped huntress with a bow in her right hand and a quiver of arrows slung across her back, an alligator lying at her feet. The waisted base is mounted with serpent-tied floral garlands and a beaded border; the whole is raised on gilt bronze toupie feet.

Deverberie’s original case design, today preserved in the French Bibliothèque Nationale, is pictured in Tardy, Les Plus Belles Pendules Françaises, 1994, pp. 246-7. An identical clock with case by Deverberie and dial signed Gaulin à Paris is illustrated in Hans Ottomeyer and Peter Pröschel, Vergoldete Bronzen, 1986, p. 381, pl. 5.15.25. An identical case with dial signed Ridel à Paris is illustrated in Elke Niehüser, Die Französische Bronzeuhr, 1997, p. 148, pl. 239. An identical clock with dial signed Thiéry à Paris is shown in Pierre Kjellberg, Encyclopédie de la Pendule Française du Moyen Age au XXe Siècle, 1997, p. 351.

The theme of the noble savage inspired a number of clock cases. The first such model made by Deverberie, with movement by Furet and Godon, was “La Négresse”; it was presented to Marie-Antoinette in 1784. The present clock, made as a pendant to “l’Afrique”, dates from about 1799 and continued in popularity up until about 1815.

The case design reflects the vogue for exoticism that prevailed during the eighteenth century and continued into the next century. It was inspired by the notion of the noble savage as treated by such writers as Rousseau, as well as by current events. Among them was the 1767 arrival in Tahiti of French explorer Bougainville, followed by that of Captain Cook in 1769. Accounts of the harmonious life of the South Sea islanders led people to question the shortcomings of European society. The notion of the noble savage inspired some of the greatest literary works of the period, including Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe (1719), Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels (1724), Bernardin de Saint-Pierre’s Paul et Virginie (1787), and Atala (1801) by the Vicomte de Chateaubriand.

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”.
The Parisian clockmaker Nicolas-Pierre-François Dubuc, known as Dubuc the elder, was active in Paris from the final years of the reign of Louis XVI to the early years of the Empire (see Tardy, Dictionnaire des horlogers français, Paris, 1971, p. 193). Almost certainly the elder brother of the clockmaker Jean-Baptiste-Charles-Gabriel Dubuc (known as Dubuc the younger), he was very successful among important Parisian clock collectors. His workshop was located successively in the rue du Grand-Hurleur, the rue du Grenier-Saint-Lazare and the rue Michel-Lecomte.

Object Name: Rare Gilt Bronze Mantel Clock “The American Indian”, Directoire period
Artist name: Nicolas-Pierre-François Dubuc
Reference: P216
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