Important Gilt Bronze Rococo Wall Cartel with Matte and Burnished Finishing
Case Attributed to Jean-Joseph de Saint-Germain
Paris, Louis XV period, circa 1745-1750
The round white enamel dial, signed “Viger à Paris”, indicates the Roman numeral hours and the Arabic numeral five-minute intervals by means of two pierced gilt bronze hands. The plate is also signed and numbered “667”. The movement, which strikes the hours, half hours, and quarters, is housed in a magnificent gilt bronze rococo case that is very finely chased, pierced and gilt, with matte and burnished finishing. The clock is adorned overall with flowering branches, leaves, seeds, asymmetrical C-scrolls, pierced reserves, scrolls and acanthus leaf volutes, which stand out against a ground of bordeaux-colored material covered with latticework mounts centered by engraved, stylized flowers.
The remarkable design of the present important wall cartel was inspired by the work of Parisian designers of the first half of the 18th century, which highlighted luxurious interiors entirely in the rococo style popular during the reign of Louis XV. Its composition, made up of sinuous curves embellished with C-scrolls and foliage, is echoed in the small number of extant contemporary cartels. Among them, one example is in the Royal Swedish Collection (illustrated in J. Böttiger, Konstsamlingarna a de Swenska Kungliga Slotten, Tome II, Stockholm, 1900). A second clock is illustrated in P. Heuer and K. Maurice, European Pendulum Clocks, Decorative Instruments of Measuring Time, Munich; 1988, p. 38, fig. 48. A third example, whose dial is signed “Viger”, is in the Historisches Museum in Basel (see Tardy, La pendule française des origines à nos jours, Paris, 1967, p. 188). Two further comparable examples, bearing the signature of the bronzier Saint-Germain, support our attribution of the present clock to that extraordinary craftsman: one is pictured in G. and A. Wannenes, Les plus belles pendules françaises de Louis XIV à l’Empire, Editions Polistampa, Florence, 2013, p. 85; the second, formerly on the Parisian art market, is illustrated in P. Kjellberg, Encyclopédie de la pendule française du Moyen Age à nos jours, Paris, 1997, p. 96.
François Viger (circa 1708 - 1784)
An 18th century Parisian clockmaker. Exercising independently at first, he became a master in August 1744 and opened a workshop in the rue Saint-Denis. As Jean-Dominique Augarde aptly states: “the pieces made in his workshop are of exceptional quality”. (Les ouvriers du Temps, Genève, 1996, p. 405). Viger ordered his clock cases from the best bronziers and cabinetmakers of the day, collaborating with such fine artisans as Jean-Joseph de Saint-Germain, Antoine Foullet, and Jean-Baptiste Osmond. His work may be found today in important museums and private collections worldwide, including the Basel Historisches Museum de Bâle, the Wallace Collection in London, the Louvre in Paris, the Hermitage in Saint Petersburg and the Liazenski Palace in Warsaw.
Jean-Joseph de Saint-Germain (1719 - 1791)
He was probably the most renowned Parisian of the mid 18th century. Active as of 1742, he did become a master craftsman until July 1748. He became famous for his many clock and cartel cases, such as his Diana the Huntress (an example is in the Louvre Museum), the clock supported by two Chinamen (a similar example is in the Musée des Arts décoratifs in Lyon), as well as several clocks based on animal themes, including elephant and rhinoceros clocks (an example in the Louvre Museum). In the early 1760’s he played an important role in the renewal of the French decorative arts and the development of the Neo-classical style, an important example of which may be seen in his Genius of Denmark clock, made for Frederic V and based on a model by Augustin Pajou (1765, in the Amalienborg Palace, Copenhagen). Saint-Germain also made several clocks inspired by the theme of Learning, or Study, based on a model by Louis-Félix de La Rue (examples in the Louvre Museum, the Gulbenkian Foundation, Lisbon, and the Metropolitan Museum in New York). Along with his clock cases, Saint-Germain also made bronze furniture mounts, such as fire dogs, wall lights, and candelabra. His entire body of work bears witness to his remarkable skills as a chaser and bronzeworker, as well as to his extraordinary creativity. He retired in 1776.