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Lenoir  -  Osmond

Rare “Grande Sonnerie” Rocaille Clock, with Repeat-on-Demand and Alarm, made of Finely Chased Gilt Bronze with Matte and Burnished Finishing


Dial and Movement Signed “Etienne Lenoir à Paris

Case attributed with certainty to bronze-caster Robert Osmond

Paris, Louis XV period, circa 1755-1760

Height48.5 cm Width33.5 cm Depth17 cm

The circular white enamel dial, signed “Etienne Lenoir à Paris”, indicates the Roman numeral hours and the Arabic five-minute intervals by means of two pierced gilt bronze hands; a third blued steel hand is used to set the alarm. The movement, whose plate is signed and numbered “Etienne Lenoir à Paris N° 454”, features repeating on demand; it strikes the hours, half hours, and quarter hours. It is housed in a rocaille case made of finely chased gilt bronze with matte and burnished finishing. The clock is surmounted by an urn decorated with laurel swags suspended from mobile rings, which is further adorned with a Greek key frieze and has a berry finial. The case is embellished with scrolling, waves, C-scrolls, flowers, rose branches and a ribbon-tied trophy with the attributes of music, set against a palm leaf and an olive branch. The reserves on the façade feature cut-out leaf motifs against a ground of red fabric. The rocaille base houses the grande sonnerie  mechanism that strikes each quarter hour in passing, while sounding the number of hours as well. The clock stands on scroll feet.

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This important clock, with its remarkable design, may be attributed to Parisian bronze caster Robert Osmond. A small number of identical clocks, featuring certain logical variations in their ornamentation, are known. Some of them bear Osmond’s signature. Among them, one example, formerly in the Akram Ojjeh collection, is pictured in G. and A. Wannenes, Les plus belles pendules françaises, De Louis XIV à l’Empire, Florence, 2013, p. 162. A second clock, with a surmounting putto, is pictured in E. Niehüser, Die französische Bronzeuhr, Eine Typologie der figürlichen Darstellungen, Munich, 1997, p. 21, fig. 19. A third piece, with a surmounting Chinaman, is shown in H. Ottomeyer and P. Pröschel, Vergoldete Bronzen, Die Bronzearbeiten des Spätbarock und Klassizismus, Band I, Munich, 1986, p. 129, fig. 2.8.18. The present clock stands out among the above-mentioned examples due to its grande sonnerie movement, which, though not invented for this model by Etienne Lenoir, is probably one of the earliest uses of that exceptional horological complication in haute Parisian horology during the 18th century.

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.

Etienne Lenoir

As of 1750, the signature “Etienne Lenoir” corresponds to the association of Etienne II Lenoir (1699-1778) and his son Pierre-Etienne Lenoir (1724 – after 1789), two of the most important Parisian horologists of the reign of Louis XV. Named Master clockmakers in 1717 and 1743 respectively, they worked together for nearly two decades, producing many clocks for some of the greatest French collectors, as well as for important European courts, and particularly the Spanish court. Like the most important Parisian clockmakers of the time, the Lenoirs sold regularly to the most important marchands-merciers. They also acquired their clock cases from the finest artisans, particularly the cabinetmakers Charles Cressent and Jean-Pierre Latz, and the bronze casters Osmond, Caffieri and Saint-Germain. Today, their work may be found in important international museums such as the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Getty Museum in Malibu, the Louvre Museum in Paris and the Musée national du château de Versailles.