Exceptional Mantel Clock made of White Marble and Gilt Bronze with Matte and Burnished Finishing
The Bronzes Attributed to François Rémond
The Dials by Joseph Coteau and Edmé-Protail Barbichon
Most Probably Made under the Supervision of Dominique Daguerre
Paris, Louis XVI period, circa 1785
Paris, private collection.
The main white enamel annular dial, signed “Cles Bertrand Her de L’académie des Sciences”, indicates the Arabic numeral hours, fifteen-minute intervals, and date by means of three hands, two of which are made of pierced and gilt bronze. There is a central seconds hand. The main dial is flanked by two auxiliary annular dials that are beautifully decorated with painted enamel. One, painted by Barbichon, indicates the days of the week, with cartouches containing mythological and allegorical figures relating to the planets. The other dial, by Coteau, features the annual calendar with its months and days, along with oval cartouches bearing the corresponding zodiac signs. The magnificent case is made of white Carrara marble and finely chased gilt bronze with matte and burnished finishing. The drum case that contains the hour and half-hour striking movement is surmounted by an urn containing a bouquet of flowers and leaves; it is supported by two eagles whose bodies are composed of acanthus leaves and stand on two legs. In their beaks they hold garlands that adorn the sides of the two subsidiary dials; they wear headdresses with a feather emerging from a bouquet of veined leaves. The quadrangular base features concave molding that is adorned with a bead frieze; it is further decorated with slightly protruding panels that depict allegorical putti musicians among the clouds, treated in the manner of the sculptor Clodion. The clock is raised upon four feet with molded rings, which are decorated with fluting and leaves.
The present clock stands out due to the extraordinary quality of its chasing and gilding, as well as its highly original composition, which shows the influence of Parisian designers of the time. One of the most talented among them was Jean-Démosthène Dugourc (1749-1825). Dugourc was one of the main proponents of the new avant-garde tendencies that dominated the French decorative arts during the last third of the 18th century. The clock may be considered one of the masterpieces of Parisian luxury clockmaking in the final third of the 18th century. To date, no identical clock has come to light, which would suggest it is a one-of-a-kind piece, probably specially ordered by one of the important Parisian connoisseurs of the time. That hypothesis is further supported by the fact that Joseph Coteau and Edmé-Protail Barbichon, two of the finest enamellers of the day, also worked on it, which occurred very rarely. This collaboration may have happened at the request of the commissioner, probably a powerful man who may have been impatient to complete the furnishing and decoration of his luxurious home in Paris.
Joseph-Charles-Paul Bertrand (1746 - 1789)
Joseph-Charles-Paul Bertrand, known as Charles Bertrand (Nettancourt 1746-Paris 1789) is one of the most important Parisian clockmakers of the reign of Louis XVI. After his apprenticeship with Eustache-François Houblin, he became a master on February 20, 1772, and opened a workshop in the rue Montmartre. Within just a few years, he had become famous for the excellence of his movements and received the title of Horloger de l’Académie Royale des Sciences. He specialized in skeleton clocks and clocks with complications, working with the finest artisans of the time. These incuded Knab for the cases, Barbichon, Coteau and Borel for the dials, and Jean-Joseph de Saint-Germain and François Vion for the bronzes. His wealthy clientele included financiers and important aristocrats such as the Marquise de Lambertye and Harenc de Presle. For the latter he made a fine vase-shaped clock that was described in April 1795 when his collection was sold: “A rich vase, of a lovely shape, with double-scroll handles, a lid, with garlands of roses, surmounted by a pinecone. In the middle of the vase and on the band there is a circle framed by imitation jewels, with a watch dial enameled by Charles Bertrand, the vase on a pedestal with sloping sides; it stands on a fluted column whose base is adorned with laurel toruses. Height 14 pouces, diameter 8”.
Today, clocks by this horologist may be found in important collections around the world, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Musée National des Techniques in Paris and the Walters Art Gallery in Baltimore.
François Rémond (circa 1747 - 1812)
Along with Pierre Gouthière, he was one of the most important Parisian chaser-gilders of the last third of the 18th century. He began his apprenticeship in 1763 and became a master chaser-gilder in 1774. His great talent quickly won him a wealthy clientele, including certain members of the Court. Through the marchand-mercier Dominique Daguerre, François Rémond was involved in furnishing the homes of most of the important collectors of the late 18th century, supplying them with exceptional clock cases, firedogs, and candelabra. These elegant and innovative pieces greatly contributed to his fame.
Joseph Coteau (1740 - 1801)
The most renowned enameller of his time, he worked with most of the best contemporary Parisian clockmakers. He was born in Geneva, where he was named master painter-enameler of the Académie de Saint Luc in 1766. Several years later he settled in Paris, and from 1772 to the end of his life, he was recorded in the rue Poupée. Coteau is known for a technique of relief enamel painting, which he perfected along with Parpette and which was used for certain Sèvres porcelain pieces, as well as for the dials of very fine clocks. Among the pieces that feature this distinctive décor are a covered bowl and tray in the Sèvres Musée national de la Céramique (Inv. SCC2011-4-2); a pair of “cannelés à guirlandes” vases in the Louvre Museum in Paris (see the exhibition catalogue Un défi au goût, 50 ans de création à la manufacture royale de Sèvres (1740-1793), Musée du Louvre, Paris, 1997, p. 108, catalogue n° 61); and a ewer and the “Comtesse du Nord” tray and bowl in the Pavlovsk Palace in Saint Petersburg (see M. Brunet and T. Préaud, Sèvres, Des origines à nos jours, Office du Livre, Fribourg, 1978, p. 207, fig. 250). A blue Sèvres porcelain lyre clock by Courieult, whose dial is signed “Coteau” and is dated “1785”, is in the Musée national du château in Versailles; it appears to be identical to the example mentioned in the 1787 inventory of Louis XVI’s apartments in Versailles (see Y. Gay and A. Lemaire, “Les pendules lyre”, in Bulletin de l’Association nationale des collectionneurs et amateurs d’Horlogerie ancienne, autumn 1993, n° 68, p. 32C).
Edmé-Portail Barbichon was a fine enamellist, active during the latter half of the eighteenth century. His name is always associated with the finest clocks and makers, including Ferdinand Berthoud and Charles Bertrand.
Dominique Daguerre is the most important marchand-mercier (i.e. merchant of luxury objects) of the last quarter of the 18th century. Little is known about the early years of his career; he appears to have begun to exercise his profession around 1772, the year he went into partnership with Philippe-Simon Poirier (1720-1785), the famous marchand-mercier who began using porcelain plaques from the Manufacture royale de Sèvres to adorn pieces of furniture. When Poirier retired around 1777-1778, Daguerre took over the shop in the rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré, keeping the name “La Couronne d’Or”. He retained his predecessor’s clientele, and significantly increased the shop’s activity within just a few years. He played an important role in the renewal of the Parisian decorative arts, working with the finest cabinetmakers of the day, including Adam Weisweiler, Martin Carlin and Claude-Charles Saunier, cabinetmaker of the Garde-Meuble de la Couronne, Georges Jacob, the bronziers and chaser-gilders Pierre-Philippe Thomire and François Rémond, and the clockmaker Renacle-Nicolas Sotiau. A visionary merchant who brought the level of French luxury goods to its highest point, Daguerre settled in England in the early 1780’s, having gone into partnership with Martin-Eloi Lignereux, who remained in charge of the Paris shop. In London, where he enjoyed the patronage of the Prince Regent (the future King George IV), Daguerre actively participated in the furnishing and decoration of Carlton House and the Brighton Pavilion. Taking advantage of his extensive network of Parisian artisans, he imported most of the furniture, chairs, mantelpieces, bronze furnishings, and art objects from France, billing over 14500£, just for 1787. Impressed by Daguerre’s talent, several British aristocrats, called on his services as well. Count Spencer engaged him for the decoration of Althorp, where Daguerre worked alongside architect Henry Holland (1745-1806). In Paris, Daguerre and his partner Lignereux continued to supply influential connoisseurs and to deliver magnificent pieces of furniture to the Garde-Meuble de la Couronne, which were placed in the apartments of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette. Daguerre retired in 1793, no doubt deeply affected by the French Revolution and the loss of many of his most important clients.