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Le Roy  -  Meissonnier
Julien II Le Roy (1686-1759)

Exceptional Gilt Bronze Amaranth-Veneered Parquetry Regulator


Dial signed by the clockmaker Julien Le Roy

Case after a Model by Juste-Aurèle Meissonnier (Turin 1695-Paris 1750)

Paris, early Louis XV period, circa 1730

Height214 cm Width73 cm Depth41 cm

The silvered metal chapter ring, signed “Inventé en 1730 par Julien Le Roy de la Société des Arts”, indicates the Roman numeral hours, the Arabic numeral five-minute intervals, and the annual calendar in an aperture; a second auxiliary dial is marked “Cadran du Temps moyen” and bears the words “Les aiguilles dorées marquant le Temps vray et les Bleues le tems moyen”. It indicates the equation of time, or the difference between mean time and solar time – that difference becomes the greatest, reaching sixteen minutes, during the month of October. The movement is housed in a magnificent waisted horizontal and vertical grain amaranth-veneered case that is decorated with molding and brass-filled fluting, and is elaborately embellished with finely chased gilt bronze mounts. The bezel is adorned with a ribbon and seed frieze. The curved summit of the clock is surmounted by two children on a naturalistic flower-decorated hill from which floral and leaf garlands descend on either side. The sinuous case, whose central portion reveals the pendulum, is adorned with wide, scrolling acanthus leaves issuing from a stylized shell, which rests on a semi-circular entablature that surmounts a gadrooned frieze above a curved base. The regulator stands on a tall base with four curved garland-decorated feet, whose facade features a large rococo pierced shell motif that terminates in volutes and is centered by a grotesque mask from whose open mouth water spews out. The regulator is supported by a shaped plinth.

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The spectacular and particularly successful design of this extraordinary regulator, or “pendule à secondes”, was inspired by the work of early 18th century designers, and particularly those of the renowned designer, sculptor, and goldsmith Juste-Aurèle Meissonnier (1695-1750), whom his peers considered the leader of the Rococo movement (see P. Fuhring, Juste-Aurèle Meissonnier: Un génie du rococo 1695-1750, Turin, 1999). Meissonnier, a brilliant and prolific artist, exercised a powerful influence on the French and European decorative arts for a period of several decades. He greatly contributed to the popularity of the rococo, until the neoclassical style became dominant. The present example also has a rare feature: a movement with complications including one of the earliest indications of the equation du temps, or the difference between true time and mean time. The same complication appears in a regulator similar to the present example, which belonged to the artist Charles-Antoine Coypel during the 18th century; in the sale held after the death of the painter in 1753 it was described as follows: “579. 1 clock with seconds, which in addition to the hours, marks true time and mean time, the course of the sun, the date, and the day of the week; the movements are by M. Claude Martinot, and the case is by M. Meissonnier”. Today in a private collection, the Coypel regulator is pictured in Pierre Kjellberg’s Encyclopédie de la pendule française du Moyen Age au XXe siècle, Paris, 1997, as well as in Jean-Dominique Augarde’s, Les Ouvriers du Temps, Le pendule à Paris de Louis XIV à Napoléon Ier, Geneva, 1996.

Julien II Le Roy (1686 - 1759)

Born in Tours, he trained under his father Pierre Le Roy; by the age of thirteen had already made his own clock. In 1699 Julien Le Roy went to Paris where he served his apprenticeship under Le Bon. Received as a maître-horloger in 1713, he later became a juré of his guild; he was also juré of the Société des Arts from 1735 to 1737. In 1739 he was made Horloger Ordinaire du Roi to Louis XV. He was given lodgings in the Louvre but did not occupy them, instead giving them to his son Pierre (1717-85) while continuing to operate his own business from rue de Harlay. Le Roy made important innovations, including the improvement of monumental clocks indicating both mean and true time. Le Roy researched equation movements and advanced pull repeat mechanisms. He adopted George Graham’s cylinder, allowing the construction of thinner watches. He chose his clock cases from the finest makers, including the Caffieris, André-Charles Boulle, Jean-Joseph de Saint-Germain, Robert Osmond, Balthazar Lieutaud, Antoine Foullet and others; his dials were often made by Antoine-Nicolas Martinière, Nicolas Jullien and possibly Elie Barbezat. Le Roy significantly raised the standards of Parisian clockmaking. After he befriended British clockmakers Henry Sully and William Blakey, several excellent English and Dutch makers were introduced into Parisian workshops.

Julien Le Roy’s work can be found among the world’s greatest collections including the Musées du Louvre, Cognacq-Jay, Jacquemart-André and the Petit Palais in Paris. Other examples are housed in the Château de Versailles, the Victoria and Albert Museum and Guildhall in London, Waddesdon Manor, Buckinghamshire, the Musée d’Horlogerie in La Chaux-de-Fonds, the Museum der Zeitmessung Bayer, Zurich, the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, the Musées Royaux d’Art et d’Histoire in Brussels, the Museum für Kunsthandwerck, Dresden, the National Museum in Stockholm, the Musea Nacional de Arte Antigua, Lisbon, the J. P. Getty Museum in California; the Walters Art Gallery in Baltimore and the Detroit Institute of Art.

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