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Rare Gilt Matte and Burnished Bronze Desk Regulator


The dial by enameller Georges-Adrien Merlet

Paris, late Louis XVI period, circa 1790

Height55 Width31 Depth17.5

The round white enamel dial, signed “Revel”, bears the mark of Georges-Adrien Merlet, one of the finest Parisian enamellers of the time, and Joseph Coteau’s main rival. It indicates, by means of three hands, the Roman numeral hours, the Arabic numeral five-minute intervals, and the date, along its outermost edge, shown within hexagonal cartouches with small green cabochons and gilt flowers alternating with coral colored dots; a central hand indicates the seconds. The movement supports the bimetallic compensation pendulum with a bob. The magnificent gilt bronze neoclassic case is finely chased and gilt with matte and burnished finishing; the clock is glazed on all four sides and its framework is adorned with waterleaf motifs. The knurled bezel is adorned with a large bead frieze; the rounded pediment is decorated with waterleaf and stem friezes with seeds and egg-and-dart motifs; the shaped corners are embellished with columns, beaded knops, leaf bouquets, palm leaves, piasters and spiral fluting, which rest on molded pedestals. The clock stands on a quadrangular base adorned with a waterleaf and cord frieze.

The remarkable design of this rare desk regulator was inspired by the antique-inspired models produced in Paris during the last decades of the 18th century by the finest decorators of the day. Its sober and balanced design relates to that of several similar clock models, with variations in their decoration. Among them, one example is in the Fondation Andrès de Ribera in Jerez de la Frontera (illustrated in Catalogo ilustrado del Museo de Relojes, 1982, p. 48, fig. 44). A second example is shown in Tardy, La pendule française, 2ème Partie: Du Louis XVI à nos jours, Paris, 1975, p. 412.

Three clocks that are identical to the present example are known: the first is illustrated in G. and A. Wannenes, Les plus belles pendules françaises, De Louis XIV à l’Empire, Florence, 2013, p. 293; the second, whose dial is signed “Kinable”, is illustrated in P. Kjellberg, Encyclopédie de la pendule française du Moyen Age au XXe siècle, Paris, 1997, p. 325; the third clock, whose dial is signed “Lepaute”, was in Napoleon’s study in 1804 at Fontainebleau Palace (see J-P. Samoyault, Musée national du Château de Fontainebleau, Catalogue des collections de mobilier, 1-Pendules et bronzes d’ameublement entrés sous le Premier Empire, RMN, Paris, 1989, p. 66, catalogue n° 27).

Joseph-Marie Revel (? - 1811)

Very little is known about this clockmaker, who was nevertheless very famous during his lifetime. Briefly mentioned in the Tardy’s Dictionnaire des horlogers under the name of Joseph Revel, he was actually named Joseph-Marie; he died in Paris in 1811. After becoming a master on August 12, 1775, he opened a workshop in the Vieille rue du Temple, and was mentioned in the Palais Royal from 1787 to 1790, in the Palais Egalité around 1800, and in the Palais Tribunat from 1804 to 1806. Several probate inventories dating from the early decades of the 19th century mention a number of his clocks; a clock by Revel was estimated in 1817 after the death of Adélaïde de Lespinasse-Langeac, the wife of the chevalier de Costalin; in 1821 another was in the collection of the Countess de Medem, Anne-Charlotte-Dorothée, the widow of the powerful Duke de Courlande.

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