A Rare Truncated Column Mantel Clock made of Gilt Bronze with Matte and Burnished Finishing, Transition period Louis XV-Louis XVI
Call +33 1 45 61 44 55
Pierre II Gille, known as Gille l’Aîné (1723-1784)
Case by Robert Osmond
A Rare Truncated Column Mantel Clock made of Gilt Bronze with Matte and Burnished Finishing
Paris, Transition period Louis XV-Louis XVI, circa 1770
Height 34 cm; width 15.8 cm; depth 15.8 cm
The round white enamel dial, signed “Gille L’Aîné à Paris”, indicates the Roman numeral hours and the Arabic five-minute intervals by means of two pierced gilt bronze hands. The hour and half hour striking movement is housed in a magnificent neoclassical case in the form of a truncated column made of finely chased gilt bronze with matte and burnished finishing, the back of which opens by means of an ingenious system, releasing a panel and allowing access to the movement. The plain bezel is framed by two laurel swags that are tied under the dial and suspended from a ribbon attached to a roundel above the dial. The clock is in the form of a magnificent neoclassical truncated column with plain fluting, which is surmounted by a covered urn that is decorated with a Greek key frieze, garlands, a leaf-decorated stem, handles with mobile rings and a faux cover with a seed finial emerging from an acanthus bouquet. The base of the column is adorned with a wide laurel leaf and seed torus with crossed ribbon ties. The clock rests on a quadrangular base.
The remarkable design of the present rare mantel clock is a perfect illustration of the renewal of the decorative arts in Paris that took place in the mid 1760s. This artistic and ornamental renewal represented a complete break with the rococo style of the early part of the reign of Louis XV, and is today known as the “return to the classical” or the neoclassical style. The new esthetic movement was influenced by the remarkable discoveries of the ancient Roman cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum, near Naples. This particular model, created by the bronzier Robert Osmond around 1770, stands out due to its remarkable design and the exceptional quality of the chasing and gilding of its bronzes, which are characteristic of Osmond’s work. By the late 18th century, a few such clocks were mentioned as being in the homes of important contemporary collectors: “A bronze clock in the form of a truncated column in gilt ormolu”, which was estimated at 180 livres in the probate inventory of Joseph Micault d’Harvelay, Garde du Trésor royal, as well as a “…mantel clock whose case is a part of a fluted column surmounted by a Greek vase also made of gilt copper…” mentioned as being in the Salon de compagnie of Louis de Durfort, the Duke de Lorges, in 1775.
Today, among the rare identical clocks known to exist, one example was offered on the Paris art market in the mid 1960s (sold Paris, Palais Galliera, Maître Rheims, 8 December 1964, lot 99). A second, whose dial is signed “Roggen à Paris”, and which features a couple of doves in replacement of the vase surmounting the clock, is illustrated in Tardy, La pendule française, 2ème Partie: De Louis XVI à nos jours, Paris, 1975, p. 259, fig. 2. A third, whose enamel dial is signed “Louis Montjoye”, is illustrated in G. and A. Wannenes, Les plus belles pendules françaises de Louis XIV à l’Empire, Editions Polistampa, Florence, 2013, p. 271. One further comparable clock, whose dial is signed “Gudin à Paris”, is in the Royal Swedish Collection in the Royal Palace in Stockholm (see H. Ottomeyer and P. Pröschel, Vergoldete Bronzen, Die Bronzearbeiten des Spätbarock und Klassizismus, Band I, Munich, 1986, p. 194, fig. 3.12.3.
As of 1765, the signature “Gille l’Aîné à Paris” was that of Parisian clockmaker Pierre II Gille. After becoming a master on 18 November 1746, he opened workshops in the rue Saint Martin, the rue Saint-Denis and the rue aux Ours. At the start of his career he worked with his father, later opening his own workshop and immediately gaining great renown among influential collectors. Among his clientele were the Marquis de Brunoy, Prince Charles de Lorraine, the Farmer General Perrinet de Jars, and the Duke de Gramont.
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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