Rare Gilt and Patinated Bronze Antique Mantel Clock Likely Made to Commemorate the Victory of the Battle of Wagram "The Tower of Markgrafneusiedl", Empire period

Attributed to Pierre-Philippe Thomire
Paris, Empire period, circa 1810
Height 40 cm; diameter 18 cm
T
he round white enamel dial indicates the Roman numeral hours and the Arabic numeral fifteen-minute intervals by means of two pierced gilt bronze hands. The movement is housed in a finely chased gilt and patinated bronze case with matte and burnished finishing. It takes the form of a medieval tower that rests on a naturalistic rocky terrace. The door, which is flanked by two posts, has a chased doorframe with an arched pediment. The tower is entirely chased to imitate bricks, with arrow-slit windows. It is further adorned by engine turning, including the dial’s bezel. The upper portion of the clock is crenellated, with two cannons on carriages fitted into the crenellations. The cannon balls sit on a brick terrace centered by a flagpost.
 
T
he remarkable composition of the present clock appears to be related to the Battle of Wagram, one of the most famous Napoleonic battles, in which France was pitted against Imperial Austria. On the first day of fighting the French and Austrian forces appeared to be evenly matched, but on July 6, 1809 Marshal Davout heroically seized the Markgrafneusiedl Tower, a dominant post from which the Austrian artillery had intensely bombarded the French forces. Thus the French troops gained an advantage over their adversary and, were able to gain a strong foothold on the Wagram plateau. This episode of military heroism, of the type that was greatly appreciated by the Emperor, was greeted with enthusiasm in Paris. It is therefore not surprising that a renowned bronze caster would create an image of the fortified tower that had been taken from the enemy and marked the moment the French gained the upper hand in the battle. As was often the case in the Parisian decorative arts at the time, this artistic initiative was imitated by others. Here, it takes the form of a rare horological model, since to the best of our knowledge this is the only such example known. The exceptional quality of its chasing and gilding support an attribution to Pierre-Philippe Thomire, who may have made a comparable case circa 1820, depicting a cylindrical tower surmounted by an orrery, with a movement by clockmaker François Ducommun; two such examples are known. The first is illustrated in P. Heuer and K. Maurice, European Pendulum Clocks, Decorative Instruments of Measuring Time, Munich, 1998, p. 327, fig. 727. The second is in the Musée d’horlogerie in La-Chaux-de-Fonds (see M. Favre, Musée d’Horlogerie de La-Chaux-de-Fonds, undated, p. 75).
 
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ierre-Philippe Thomire (1757-1843)
Having become a master founder on May 18, 1772, he was the most important Parisian bronzier of the first quarter of the 18th century and the early years of the following century. Initially he worked for Pierre Gouthière, chaser-founder to the king, and as of the mid-1770s he worked with Louis Prieur. He later became one of the official bronziers of the Royal Sèvres Factory, creating bronze he bought the stock of Martin-Eloi Lignereux and became the main supplier of bronze furnishings for the imperial palaces. He also had a number of wealthy several of Napoleon’s marshals. He retired in the mid-1820s and died in 1843.

P275

Thomire Pierre-Philippe


Thomire Rare Gilt and Patinated Bronze Antique Mantel Clock Likely Made to Commemorate the Victory of the Battle of Wagram "The Tower of Markgrafneusiedl", Empire period