Exceptional Gilt Bronze Antique Desk Clock with Matte and Burnished Finishing, National Convention period

Robert Robin
Case Attributed to Cabinetmaker Jean-Ferdinand-Joseph Schwerdfeger
Paris, National Convention period, circa 1793-1795
Height 33.5 cm; width 17.5 cm; depth 11 cm
T
he round white enamel dial, signed “Robin”, indicates the Roman numeral hours and the Arabic numeral fifteen-minute intervals as well as the Arabic numeral Republican date, by means of three hands, including two gilt bronze Breguet hands. The movement, whose plate is signed “Robin aux Galeries du Louvre à Paris”, is housed in a magnificent solid mahogany neoclassical case with molding, whose sides and back are glazed. The top of the clock, with its arched pediment, is adorned by four seed finials and terminates in an entablature on which an eagle with outstretched wings is perched, holding Jupiter’s spindle in its claws. The lower portion of the façade is adorned with a gilt bronze panel with a semi-circular upper edge; within it, a semi-circular aperture indicates the moon phases and the age of the moon, amidst latticework centered by flowers with four petals. Its lower edge is engraved with the words “Robin de la Société des Inventions & découvertes de France”. The clock stands on four quadrangular feet.
 
I
n addition to its highly precise and exceptionally well-finished movement, the present clock stands out due to its solid mahogany architectural case, whose deliberately sober design was highlights the ingenious and precise movement, as well as the beauty of the dial. Toward the end of the 18th century, the cabinetmaker Ferdinand Schwerdfeger (1734-1818) specialized in this type of case. In many early 19th century sales catalogues he is mentioned as simply “Ferdinand”. Upon the death of his wife in 1803, his workshop was described as containing, almost exclusively, mahogany clock cases. Schwerdfeger made the case for the “geographical” clock that Antide Janvier presented to King Louis XVI in 1791, and which today is in the Musée national du château de Fontainebleau (illustrated in M. Hayard, Antide Janvier 1751-1835, Horloger des étoiles, 1995, p. 79). It was almost certainly that same cabinetmaker - who created several fine pieces of furniture for Marie-Antoinette - who made the case of the present particularly elaborate clock. Comparable clocks are extremely rare, and generally bear the signature of the renowned clockmaker Antide Janvier. Among them, one example is today in the Musée de Besançon (illustrated in Tardy, La pendule française dans le Monde, Paris, 1994, p. 200, plate XXXV). A second clock is in the Musée International d’Horlogerie in La Chaux-de-Fonds (see the exhibition catalogue La Révolution dans la mesure du Temps, Calendrier républicain heure décimale 1793-1805, Musée International d’Horlogerie, La Chaux-de-Fonds, 1989, pp. 100-101, catalogue n° 42). One further clock, the “pendule d’audience à deux faces”, is shown in M. Hayard, Antide Janvier, Horloger des étoiles, Sa vie à travers son œuvre, Paris, 2011, pp. 173-177.
 
R
obert Robin (1741-1799)
Is one of the most important Parisian clockmakers of the late 18th century. Having received the titles of Valet de Chambre-Horloger Ordinaire du Roi et de la Reine in 1783 and 1786, he had an extraordinary career, distinguished himself by his exceptional contribution to the progress of time measurement during his lifetime.
In 1778 the French Académie des Sciences approved two of his inventions, one of which led to the construction of an astronomic clock representing a meridian drawn on a pyramid, which was acquired that year by the Menus Plaisirs on behalf of Louis XVI. Robin published a “Description historique et mécanique” of the clock. He constructed astronomic mantel regulators with compensation balance, which the Marquis de Courtanvaux, one of the period’s most important connoisseurs of precision horology, was among the first to acquire. During the Terreur he made decimal watches and clocks. He is recorded successively at the Grande rue du faubourg Saint-Honoré (1772), rue des Fossés-Saint-Germain l'Auxerrois (1775), rue Saint-Honoré à l'Hôtel d'Aligre (1778) and in the Galeries du Louvre in 1786.

Robin housed his mantel regulators in sober, elegant cases that were remarkably modern in style. He worked with excellent artisans such as Robert and Jean Baptiste Osmond, Pierre Philippe Thomire, E. Roy, J.L. Beaucour, P. Delacroix, François Rémond, Claude Galle, Balthazar Lieutaud, E. Levasseur, J.H. Riesener, Jean-Ferdinand Schwerdfeger and Adam Weisweiler for his cases; Barbezat, Edmé-Portail Barbichon, Dubuisson, Cave, Merlet and Coteau for his dials, and the Richards and the Montginots for his springs.
Robin’s sons, Nicolas Robert (1775-1812) and Jean-Joseph (1781-1856), were both fine clockmakers who continued their father’s business.
F
erdinand Schwerdfeger (1734-1818) Is one of the most important Parisian cabinetmakers of the late 18th century. After becoming a master in May 1786, he opened a workshop in Paris and quickly gained a following. His work, however, remains little known due to his becoming a master shortly before the Revolution, and to the fact that he rarely stamped his work. Among the pieces that may be attributed to him with certitude, one should mention an ensemble delivered to Marie-Antoinette, as well as several regulator and clock cases for some of the finest horologists of the day, including Antide Janvier, Jean-Simon Bourdier and Robert Robin (see M-A Paulin, Schwerdfeger, ébéniste de Marie-Antoinette, in L’Estampille/L’Objet d’art, October 2003).

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Robin Robert


Robin - Schwerdfeger Exceptional Gilt Bronze Antique Desk Clock with Matte and Burnished Finishing, National Convention period