Important Architectural Gilt Bronze Cartonnier Mantle Clock
“Lepaute horloger du roi à Paris”
Case attributed to Robert Osmond
Paris, early Louis XVI period, circa 1770-1775
– Probably from the collection of Pierre-Paul-Louis Randon de Boisset (1708-1776), Receiver General of Finance for the region of Lyon and Farmer General; his collection was sold in Paris from February 27 to March 25, 1777, lot 833; purchased for 1500 livres by Monsieur de Mondragon.
– Fabius Brothers Collection, Paris.
The enamel dial, signed “Lepaute horloger du roi à Paris”, indicates the hours in Roman numerals, the minutes in Arabic numerals and the seconds; the remarkable rectangular architectural case is in finely chased gilt bronze. The bezel is decorated with a frieze of interlocking motifs, the arch by an egg and dart frieze, the dial is flanked by scrolling foliage and flower rosettes and scrolling, the sides feature Apollo masks with radiating sun rays, framed by ribbons and laurel branches. The base features a curved foliate moulding and the clock is surmounted by acanthus leaves and a flower.
– Pierre Kjellberg, Encyclopédie de la pendule française du Moyen Age à nos jours, Paris, 1997, p. 177, fig. E (illustration).
This remarkable clock may be confidently attributed to Robert Osmond (1711-1789), one of the most renowned Parisian bronziers of the 18th century. A few rare clocks with cases by Osmond feature similar compositions, including an arched architectural borne, including: a clock formerly in the collection of the 6th Count of Rosebery in Mentmore (Sotheby’s, 18-20 May 1977, lot 123); a second illustrated in Tardy, La pendule française, 2ème partie: du Louis XVI à nos jours, Paris, 1975, p.301. The lack of precision and recurring errors in the descriptions of the clock movements by the painter Pierre Rémy, expert of the Randon de Boisset sale, make it difficult to be certain, however the lot 833, described as follows: “Another clock, with quarters and seconds, made by le Paute, in a rectangular gilt bronze case, with rounded egg and dart decorated arch, the front with scrolling and flowers, the sides with sunrays, & the base with convex foliate moulding: length 17 pouces (44.5 cm) by 15 high (39 cm)”, appears to be similar to the present clock.
Jean-André Lepaute (1720 - 1789)
This is the signature of the brothers Jean-André Lepaute (1720-1789) and Jean-Baptiste Lepaute (1727-1802), remarkable clockmakers born in Thonne-la-Long in Lorraine who were both horlogers du Roi.
Jean-André came to Paris as a young man and was joined by his brother in 1747. The Lepaute enterprise, founded informally in 1750, was formally incorporated in 1758. Jean-André, who was received as a maître by the corporation des horlogers in 1759, was lodged first in the Palais du Luxembourg and then, in 1756, in the Galeries du Louvre. Jean-André Lepaute wrote a horological treatise (Traité d’Horlogerie), published in Paris in 1755. Another volume, entitled Description de plusieurs ouvrages d’horlogerie (A Description of several horological pieces) appeared in 1764. In 1748 he married the mathematician and astronomer Nicole-Reine Etable de la Brière, who among other things predicted the return of Halley’s Comet.
Jean-Baptiste Lepaute, received maître in December 1776, was known for the equation of time clock he constructed for the Paris Hôtel de Ville (1780, destroyed in the fire of 1871) and the clock of the Hôtel des Invalides.
The two brothers worked for the French Garde-Meuble de la Couronne; their clocks were appreciated by the most important connoisseurs of the time, both in France and abroad, such as the Prince Charles de Lorraine and the Queen Louise-Ulrika of Sweden.
Jean-Baptiste took over the workshop when Jean-André retired in 1775.
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.