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Hubert Martinet


Hubert Martinet was one of the most important Parisian artisans of the last third of the 18th century. Active in Paris and London as of 1768, he quickly gained renown due to his exceptional talent. He created some of the most elaborate clock models of the period, including several automaton clocks with elephants, a spectacular example of which was formerly in the Rothschild collection and is now in Waddesdon Manor near London (see G. de Bellaigue, The James A. de Rothschild at Waddesdon Manor, London, 1974). The fact that the clockmaker sold his creations in the two most important European capitals of the time suggests he was a shrewd businessman who knew how to adapt his production to the desires of the important collectors of the time. However, despite his success, Martinet seems to have encountered financial problems in the late 1770s; an inventory of his stock was drawn up in Paris for his bankruptcy proceedings. Nevertheless he continued to work until long after the Revolution, since upon his divorce in the mid 1790s, he was still described as a clockmaker. Lastly, Martinet was not simply an artisan, but was often called a “marchand-mercier” or clockmaker, as well as an inventor and “artiste mécanicien”, which indicates his many-faceted personality and suggests that more remains to be discovered concerning his role in the development of the decorative arts in Europe during the last third of the 18th century.