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Robert Osmond (1711-1789)

Rare Gilt Bronze Mantle Clock

The Victory of Science


Briant à Paris

The base signed: OSMOND

Paris, early Louis XVI period, circa 1775

Height43.5 Width40.5 Depth15

The enamel dial, signed “Briant à Paris” indicates the hours in Roman numerals and the Arabic five-minute intervals and date, by means of three hands, two of which are made of pierced, gilt copper. It is set in a finely chased matte and burnished gilt architectural case. The arched pediment, which is adorned with an egg and dart frieze and stylised motifs, is supported by two lateral consoles terminating in acanthus leaf scrolls and fluting inset with gilt bronze mounts. Two rosettes are set in two fluted pilasters flanking the dial; they are draped with a fruit and leaf garland. The clock is surmounted by two children seated on a drapery; the first child, a girl representing an allegory of Science, holds a compass while drawing on a map. The second child, a young winged boy, places a crown on the girl’s head. The clock rests on a rectangular shaped base with matted reserves, which is decorated with a foliate frieze. The base, in turn, rests on a white Carrara marble base, which is adorned with scrolling and flowers in reserves. It is supported on six flattened feet that are decorated with plain bands.

This model, extremely successful among Parisian lovers of fine horology during the last third of the 18th century, is based on a drawing today in the Paris Institut National d’Histoire de l’Art. The bronzier Osmond produced several variations of this model (see H. Ottomeyer and P. Pröschel, Vergoldete Bronzen, Band I, Munich, 1986, p. 228). We know of one example in the Jacquemard-André Museum in Paris, to which the bronze caster added two additional putti on either side of the dial (illustrated in P. Verlet, Les bronzes dorés du XVIIIe siècle, Paris, 1987, p. 117, fig. 148). Three similar models are known: the first two are in the Mobilier National, one having been delivered to Versailles for Madame Royale in 1778 (see Le château de Versailles raconte le Mobilier national, 2011, p. 153-155); the other was ordered by the Count d’Artois for the Palais du Temple in 1777 (see La folie d’Artois à Bagatelle, 1988, p. 108). Another comparable clock, whose dial is signed Lepaute de Belle Fontaine, is in the Royal British Collection in Windsor Castle (Inv. RCIN30021).

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.