Rare Gilt Bronze “Oeil de Bœuf” Cartel d’Alcôve with Matte Finishing, Louis XVI period

Robert Osmond

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Mathieu le jeune
Case Attributed to Robert Osmond
Rare Gilt Bronze “Oeil de Bœuf” Cartel d’Alcôve with Matte Finishing
Paris, Louis XVI period, circa 1780
Diameter 26 cm

The round white enamel dial, signed “Mathieu le jeune”, indicates the Roman numeral hours and the Arabic numeral five-minute intervals by means of two pierced gilt bronze hands. The movement, with pull-cord striking on demand, sounds the hours, half hours, and quarters. The magnificent “œil de bœuf” case is made of finely chased matte gilt bronze. The mille-raie bezel is adorned with bead and twisted cord friezes. The clock is surmounted by a gilt bronze ribbon bow, which appears to be tied to the hanging ring; a rose garland is threaded through it, and hangs down on either side of the case. In the lower portion, a second ribbon adorns two laurel branches with leaves and seeds. The outermost edge of the clock is further embellished with a beadwork frieze.

The consummate neoclassical design of the present fine cartel d’alcôve and the exceptional quality of its gilding and chasing support our attribution to Robert Osmond, one of the most talented Parisian bronziers of the time. Today only a few similar cartels are known. Among them, one example, whose dial is signed “Etienne Lenoir”, is illustrated in R. Mühe and Horand M. Vogel, Horloges anciennes, Manuel des horloges de table, des horloges murales et des pendules de parquet européennes, Fribourg, 1978, p. 191, fig. 352. A second example is pictured as it was then displayed in an important Parisian collection (see Le Dix-huitième Siècle français, Connaissance des Arts, Editions Hachette, Paris, 1956, p. 218). Two cartels that are nearly identical to the present clock, though with some minor differences in their decoration, are shown in Tardy, La pendule française des origines à nos jours, 2ème Partie: Du Louis XVI à nos jours, Paris, 1974, p. 312, and in G. and A. Wannenes, Les plus belles pendules françaises de Louis XIV à l’Empire, Editions Polistampa, Florence, 2013, p. 241 (the dial of the latter clock is signed “Revel au Palais Royal”).

Mathieu le jeune 
This is the signature of Edme Mathieu, known as “le jeune” (the younger); he was one of the most important Parisian clockmakers of the last third of the 18th century. The brother of clockmaker Claude Mathieu (known as “l’aîné”, or the elder), he began his career as an  “ouvrier libre”, becoming a master on September 9, 1768. His workshop was located in the rue Mazarine in 1759, the rue Matignon in 1761, the rue Saint Honoré near the Jacobins in 1769, near the rue des Fondeurs in 1778, and lastly, across from the Oratoire in 1800 (see J-D. Augarde, Les ouvriers du Temps, Genève, 1996, p. 374). He quickly gained renown among influential connoisseurs of luxury horology. Some of his clocks are mentioned as having belonged to important collectors of the time, including those cited in the probate inventories of the lawyer Jean Mazade du Sartre and the widow of Benjamin Guyhou de Montleveaux, formerly Trésorier de France. 
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.

Object Name: Rare Gilt Bronze “Oeil de Bœuf” Cartel d’Alcôve with Matte Finishing, Louis XVI period
Artist name: Robert Osmond
Reference: C035
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