Rare Gilt and Patinated Bronze and Red Griotte Marble Antique Mantel Clock “Urania” or “Allegory of Astronomy”, early Empire period

Attributed to Claude Galle
Paris, early Empire period, circa 1805
Height 54 cm; width 31 cm; depth 21cm
T
he round white enamel dial indicates the Roman numeral hours and the outermost minutes graduations by means of two Breguet hands. The movement is housed in a drum case that is placed on the knees of a magnificent allegorical female figure whose hair is in a bun that is tied up with a band decorated with stars. She is wearing long classical robes and is holding a telescope in her left hand. In the other hand she holds a tablet with astronomical signs within reserves, which are engraved along a curved band. The figure, which represents the muse Urania, is seated on a rectangular base that is set on a quadrangular plinth that is supported by four robust lion paw feet emerging from acanthus leaves.
 
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he very unusual composition of this rare mantel clock was inspired by classical sculptures, particularly those of ancient Greece and Egypt. This model, which depicts a solemn seated female figure, probably appeared during the early years of the 19th century, and became extremely popular among important collectors. The model appears to have been inspired by a clock that was created during the early years of the 19th century, after the work of the sculptor François Masson (1745-1807). One such clock, now in the Malmaison museum, was delivered around 1800-1803 to the Saint-Cloud Palace. A clock identical to the one at Malmaison was offered at the sale of the collection of the architect Hurtault in 1825. At that sale the name of the sculptor who created the female figure was mentioned: “a clock … this clock, in antique green patinated bronze, was created by M. Masson, sculptor …” (see the exhibition catalogue La mesure du Temps dans les collections de Malmaison, 1991, RMN, Paris, p. 12, catalogue n° 5).

Today, among the small number of comparable clocks known, one example is in the Museo de Relojes de las Bodegas (illustrated in L. Montanés, Catalogo illustrado del Museo de relojes, Fundacion Andrés de Ribera, Jerez de la Frontera, 1982, p. 101, fig. 171). A second clock is illustrated in E. Niehüser, Die französische Bronzeuhr, Eine Typologie der figürlichen Darstellungen, Munich, 1997, p. 220, fig. 469. Only two clocks that are identical to the present example are known; they display certain variations, particularly in the architectural portions of the clock. The quality of their chasing and their original design support an attribution to the bronze caster Claude Galle. The first of these clocks is pictured in P. Heuer and K. Maurice, European Pendulum Clocks, Decorative Instruments of Measuring Time, Munich, 1988, p. 85, fig. 150; the second one, whose dial is signed “Piolaine à Paris”, is in the Pavlovsk Palace in Saint Petersburg (see A. Kuchumov, Pavlovsk, Palace & Park, Leningrad, 1975, fig. 163).
 
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laude Galle (1759 - 1815)
One of the foremost bronziers and fondeur-ciseleurs of the late Louis XVI and Empire periods, Claude Galle was born at Villepreux near Versailles. He served his apprenticeship in Paris under the fondeur Pierre Foy, and in 1784 married Foy’s daughter. In 1786 he became a maitre-fondeur. After the death of his father-in-law in 1788, Galle took over his workshop, soon turning it into one the finest, and employing approximately 400 craftsmen. Galle moved to Quai de la Monnaie (later Quai de l’Unité), and then in 1805 to 60 Rue Vivienne.
The Garde-Meuble de la Couronne, under the direction of sculptor Jean Hauré from 1786-88, entrusted him with many commissions. Galle collaborated with many excellent artisans, including Pierre-Philippe Thomire, and furnished the majority of the furnishing bronzes for the Château de Fontainebleau during the Empire. He received many other Imperial commissions, among them light fittings, figural clock cases, and vases for the palaces of Saint-Cloud, the Trianons, the Tuileries, Compiègne, and Rambouillet. He supplied several Italian palaces, such as Monte Cavallo, Rome and Stupinigi near Turin.
In spite of his success, and due in part to his generous and lavish lifestyle, as well as to the failure of certain of his clients (such as the Prince Joseph Bonaparte) to pay what they owed, Galle often found himself in financial difficulty. Galle’s business was continued by his son after his death by his son, Gérard-Jean Galle (1788-1846). Today his work may be found in the world’s most important museums and collections, those mentioned above, as well as the Musée National du Château de Malmaison, the Musée Marmottan in Paris, the Museo de Reloges at Jerez de la Frontera, the Residenz in Munich, and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

P256

Galle Claude


Galle Rare Gilt and Patinated Bronze and Red Griotte Marble Antique Mantel Clock “Urania” or “Allegory of Astronomy”, early Empire period