Rare Gilt Bronze Mantel Clock
Paris, Empire period, circa 1810
The round white enamel dial, signed “Gabriel Leroy/Rue du Temple N° 115 à Paris”, indicates the Roman numeral hours and Arabic fifteen-minute intervals by means of two blued steel Breguet hands. The case is made of finely chased gilt bronze with matte and burnished finishing. The bezel is adorned with a waterleaf frieze. The movement is housed in a case with engaged columns adorned with lions’ heads from which water issues, falling into receptacles placed on low pilasters with applied decorative motifs; the columns have palmette-decorated capitals. The façade is decorated with a swan with outstretched wings that rests on C scrolls, palmettes and rosettes. The rounded cornice is adorned with roof edge ornaments alternating with stylized palmettes and shells. The clock is surmounted by a gadrooned basin that supports two addorsed dolphins with intertwining tails. On the terrace are two children. The young girl is sitting in a sled with applied marine horses; she points the way with her right hand as she turns toward the other child, a young boy. Both children are dressed in the fashion of the 19th century. The rectangular base, with a sloping entablature, is supported by a molded plinth decorated with applied motifs of a trident, oars, ewers, shells, and reeds; it is itself supported on four knurled toupie feet.
This rare clock, with its magnificent chasing and gilding, is based on an unusual theme that is probably based on the novel Paul et Virginie by Jacques-Henri Bernardin de Saint-Pierre. Published in 1788, it rapidly became very popular. The motif of two children playing together might correspond to the period when Paul and Virginie, who had grown up together as brother and sister on an isolated island far from civilization, led a life that was simple and virtuous and close to nature. The clockmaker who made the movement, Gabriel Leroy, was very probably a member of the horological dynasty of the same name that was active in Paris from the mid 18th century until the early decades of the following century. His workshop is mentioned at 115, rue du Temple from 1802 to 1822. During the Empire period he appears to have gone into partnership with his colleague Lemazurier (see Tardy, Dictionnaire des horlogers français, Paris, 1971, p. 405). A gilt copper clock by this clockmaker, “surmounted by a chariot drawn by butterflies”, was valued at 300 francs in 1817 in the probate inventory of Charles-Etienne Lacouture.
Gabriel Leroy was no doubt a member of the famous clockmaking dynasty active in Paris from the mid-18th century to the early décades of the following century; he is mentioned at 115, rue du Temple from 1802 to 1822 (see Tardy, Dictionnaire des horlogers français, Paris, 1971, p. 405).