Rare White Carrara Marble and Matte Gilt Bronze Mantel Clock
“Terpsichore” or “Allegory of Dance”
“Sicard et Bernard à Bordeaux”
Paris and Bordeaux, Louis XVI period, circa 1785
The round white enamel dial, signed “Sicard et Bernard à Bordeaux”, indicates the Arabic numeral hours and fifteen minute intervals, as well as the date, by means of three hands, two of which are made of pierced and gilt bronze. The hour and half-hour striking movement is housed in a round case that is surmounted by an allegorical female figure that holds a lyre. She represents Terpsichore, the Muse of Dance. The lower portion of the drum case is adorned with a tasseled drapery that is suspended from a thyrsus with double pinecone. The pendulum at the back of the clock features a sun mask. Supporting the clock are two magnificent groups, each representing a winged horse on which is seated a putto holding a trumpet. The winged horses stand on rectangular bases with canted corners that are adorned with molding and bead friezes, and are raised upon four knurled feet. The quadrangular base with canted corners and protruding portions is richly adorned with finely chased gilt bronze motifs, including ribbon-tied flags with leaf and flower bouquets, round medallions decorated with mille-raie and rosette motifs, and a panel bearing the attributes of Love, including a bow and quiver with feathered arrows, amidst the clouds. The clock is raised upon six feet that are decorated with a cord frieze.
The remarkable composition of the present rare clock was inspired by a preparatory drawing for a clock that is now in the Bibliothèque Nationale à Paris, Cabinet des Estampes, Le 30, Folio 53 (see E. Niehüser, Die französische Bronzeuhr, Eine Typologie der figürlichen Darstellungen, Munich, 1997, p. 207, fig. 193). This drawing appears to have greatly influenced Parisian horology during the mid 1780s, for numerous clocks are known that appear to have been inspired in some way by the drawing. These clocks feature certain variations, particularly in the figure surmounting the clock and the lateral groups. Among these, one clock, whose dial is signed “Piolaine”, is surmounted by the figure of Minerva wearing armor; it is in the White House in Washington. A second example, identical to the one in Washington, is in the Royal Spanish Collection (illustrated in J. Ramon Colon de Carvajal, Catalogo de Relojes del Patrimonio nacional, Madrid, 1987, p. 65, n° 48). A third clock features a reclining bacchante and putti riding goats (sold Paris, Me Laurin, Galerie Charpentier, December 9 1958, lot 89).
One further example, which is identical to the present clock, is shown in G. Henriot, Bronzes et bois sculptés des collections privées, Paris, plate 7. Another example, clearly the same model, was estimated at 250 francs in the probate inventory of the influential Parisian decorator Jean-Pierre Blanchard around 1800: “Another clock bearing no name in its copper case surmounted by a figure representing Apollo playing the lyre, carried by two winged horses on which ride Cupids, the whole matte gilt and on a white marble base.”