Exceptional Matte and Burnished Gilt Bronze, Sèvres Porcelain, and Black and Red Griotte Italian Marble Mantel Clock
“La Leçon de l’Amour” and “La Leçon à l’Amour”
Joseph-Marie Revel (died in Paris in 1811)
The enamel dial by Etienne Gobin, known as Dubuisson (1731-1815)
The bronzes attributed to François Rémond
The bisque groups by the Royal Sèvres Porcelain Manufactory after models by sculptor Louis-Simon Boizot
Almost certainly made under the supervision of Dominique Daguerre
Paris, Directoire period, circa 1795
The round white enamel dial is signed “Revel à Paris” and “Dubuis”, which stands for Etienne Gobin, one of the most renowned Parisian enamelers of the period, and a colleague and rival of Joseph Coteau. It indicates the Arabic numeral hours, fifteen-minute intervals, and Republican date by means of three hands, two of which are made of pierced and gilt bronze. The dial is housed in an octagonal case decorated with a stiff leaf frieze, whose bezel is adorned with bead and star friezes. The clock is surmounted by a group representing Cupid in a chariot drawn by two doves, holding a flaming torch and riding among clouds that are decorated with flower and leaf garlands. The movement rests on an oval pillar, which is elaborately adorned with motifs including female masks, cord friezes, fluting, and a scene depicting children playing with a goat, in the manner of the sculptor Clodion, and rests upon a laurel torus supported by four griffons. On either side of the pillar stand bisque groups by the Sèvres Manufactory, representing “La Leçon de l’Amour” and “La Leçon à l’Amour”. The quadrangular base with protruding fluted pilasters, is embellished with braid and leaf friezes; in the center a framed reserve depicting Cupid is flanked by bisque porcelain medallions with a blue ground, in the manner of Wedgwood bisque medallions, which feature mythological scenes. The medallions are framed by bead friezes and are suspended from flower garlands held by butterflies. The base is supported by four reclining sphinxes whose tails terminate in scrolls, and which rest in turn on an oblong plinth that is raised upon four flattened ball feet.
– Jean-Dominique Augarde, Les ouvriers du Temps, La pendule à Paris de Louis XIV à Napoléon Ier, Editions Antiquorum, Genève, 1996, p. 44, fig. 28 (illustration)
The present clock, a masterpiece of Parisian horology of the late 18th century, is extremely luxurious and may be confidently attributed to the chaser-gilder François Rémond, who worked almost exclusively for marchand-mercier Dominique Daguerre, the most important supplier of luxury goods of the period. This attribution, which has been confirmed in a conversation with Monsieur Christian Baulez, honorary curator of the Musée national du Château de Versailles and a Rémond specialist, suggests that the clock was ordered by an extremely prestigious connoisseur. The bisque porcelain groups were created at the Sèvres porcelain factory after models by sculptor Louis-Simon Boizot (1743-1809), who at the time was the director of the Manufactory’s sculpture workshop.
Today, only three identical clocks are known. The first example is on display in the Grassy Horological Museum in Madrid (most of the pieces in the museum were formerly in the collection of the great Catalan collector Perez de Olaguer-Feliu. The second clock, whose dial is signed “Antoine Philibert”, was purchased in Paris in 1910 by Mrs. Arabella Huntington; it is today in the Huntington Collection in San Marino, California (pictured in S.M. Bennett and C. Sargentson, French Art of the Eighteenth Century at the Huntington, 2008, p. 154, catalogue n° 51). One further example of the model, in which the bisque groups are replaced by bronze groups depicting the same themes, was previously in the collection of Prince Nikolai Borisovich Yusupov (1750-1831) in Moscow. It was transferred to the Yusupov Palace in Saint Petersburg in 1850, and was seized during the 1917 Revolution and deposited in the Hermitage Museum in 1925 (pictured in the exhibition catalogue The Triumph of Eros, Art and Seduction in the 18th Century France, Somerset House, London, November 2006-April 2007, p. 79, fig. 31).
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.
Dubuisson (1731 - 1815)
Étienne Gobin, known as Dubuisson, was one of the best enamellers working in Paris during the latter part of the 18th century and the early 19th century. During the mid 1750’s he was employed at Sèvres, then opened his own workshop, being recorded in the 1790’s in the rue de la Huchette and, circa 1812, in the rue de la Calandre. Specializing in enamelled watch cases and clock dials, he is known for his great skill and attention to detail.
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.
Sèvres Royal Manufactory
The Vincennes porcelain factory was created in 1740 under the patronage of Louis XV and the Marquise of Pompadour. It was created to rival with the Meissen porcelain factory, and became its principal European rival. In 1756 it was transferred to Sèvres, becoming the Royal Sèvres porcelain factory. Still active today, during the course of its existence it has had several periods of extraordinary creativity and has called on the finest French and European artisans. Kings and emperors considered it an exemplary showcase for French know-how. Most of the pieces created in the manufactory workshops were intended to be given as diplomatic gifts or to decorate the castles and royal palaces of the 18th and 19th centuries.
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.