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Thématiques: Chinoiserie

  • Masson  -  Saint-Germain
    Denis Masson
    Jean-Joseph de Saint-Germain (1719-1791)

    Rare Gilt Bronze Chinoiserie Mantel Clock with Matte and Burnished Finishing


    The Case Attributed to Jean-Joseph de Saint-Germain

    Paris, Louis XV period, circa 1750

    Height32 Width37 Depth22

    The round white enamel dial, signed “Masson à Paris”, indicates the Roman numeral hours and the Arabic numeral five-minute intervals by means of two pierced gilt bronze hands. The rocaille case made of finely chased gilt bronze with matte and burnished finishing. It is housed in a drum case that rests on a stylized rocky terrace that serves as its base, with matted reserves, with a palm tree behind. To the right there is a magnificent female Chinoiserie figure dressed in an Oriental-style tunic; she wears earrings and is holding a slender branch in each hand. The figure is reclining on a wide, shaped, naturalistic terrace adorned with C scrolls, scrolling, and stylized leaves and rocks.

    The present clock, an example of the extraordinary popularity of Oriental and Chinoiserie motifs among connoisseurs in Paris and throughout Europe, is one of the most elaborate Parisian Chinoiserie creations of the reign of Louis XV. This model, whose composition is particularly elegant and balanced, was a great success toward the mid-18th century. It presents several similarities with some works by the bronze caster Jean-Joseph de Saint-Germain, to whom we attribute it. Today, among the small number of known identical clocks that sometimes feature a “Chinese” figure with a “smoky black patina”, one example, with a dial signed “Galland”, was formerly in the renowned Akram Ojjeh collection (sold Sotheby’s, Monaco, June 25, 1979). A second example, whose dial is signed “Musson”, was in the collection of Marquise Margaret Rockefeller de Larrain (sold Sotheby’s, New York, November 15, 1980, lot 77). A third clock, with a dial by Furet, appeared on the art market when the Elisabeth Firestone collection was sold (lot 873). One further such clock is illustrated in P. Kjellberg, Encyclopédie de la pendule française du Moyen Age à nos jours, Les Editions de l’Amateur, Paris, 1997, p. 117.

    The date at which the present clock was created suggests that it was made by the clockmaker Denis Masson, one of the most important Parisian horologists of the 18th century.

    Denis Masson

    Becoming a master on March 1, 1746, Denis Masson was one of the most important Parisian clockmakers of the 18th century. He began as an ouvrier libre, then became a master in 1746, opening workshops successively in the Abbaye Saint-Germain-des-Prés, on the pont Notre-Dame in 1747 and in the rue Sainte-Avoye in 1778. He quickly gained fame among important Parisian connoisseurs of luxury horology, particularly for his clocks adorned with Saxon porcelain figures. Like most of the finest clockmakers of his day, Denis Masson worked with many of the best artisans of the time. He collaborated with the bronze caster Jean-Baptiste Vallée and the cabinetmakers Lieutaud and Foullet. Among his clients were the Infanta of Parma, the duchess de Mazarin and the duchess de Villeroy, as well as the  Marquis de Persan and the Prince and Princess de Condé.

    Jean-Joseph de Saint-Germain (1719 - 1791)

    He was probably the most renowned Parisian of the mid 18th century. Active as of 1742, he did become a master craftsman until July 1748. He became famous for his many clock and cartel cases, such as his Diana the Huntress (an example is in the Louvre Museum), the clock supported by two Chinamen (a similar example is in the Musée des Arts décoratifs in Lyon), as well as several clocks based on animal themes, including elephant and rhinoceros clocks (an example in the Louvre Museum). In the early 1760’s he played an important role in the renewal of the French decorative arts and the development of the Neo-classical style, an important example of which may be seen in his Genius of Denmark clock, made for Frederic V and based on a model by Augustin Pajou (1765, in the Amalienborg Palace, Copenhagen). Saint-Germain also made several clocks inspired by the theme of Learning, or Study, based on a model by Louis-Félix de La Rue (examples in the Louvre Museum, the Gulbenkian Foundation, Lisbon, and the Metropolitan Museum in New York). Along with his clock cases, Saint-Germain also made bronze furniture mounts, such as fire dogs, wall lights, and candelabra. His entire body of work bears witness to his remarkable skills as a chaser and bronzeworker, as well as to his extraordinary creativity. He retired in 1776.

    Bréant  -  Coteau
    Jacques-Thomas Bréant (1753-1807)
    Joseph Coteau (1740-1801)

    Rare White Marble and Gilt Bronze Turkish-Style Lyre Clock with Visible Movement


    The enamels by Joseph Coteau

    Paris, Louis XVI period, circa 1785

    Height62 Width32 Depth13.5

    The round white enamel dial, with delicate bell motifs under gold and polychrome canopies, is signed “coteau”. It features a blue enamel cartouche bearing the signature “Jacs Breant à Paris”, and partially reveals the movement, while indicating the Roman numeral hours, the Arabic numeral five-minute intervals and date, and has a central seconds hand. The white Carrara marble lyre-shaped case is adorned with finely chased gilt mounts in the Oriental style, with motifs such as vegetation, pineapples, hanging draperies, cut-out friezes of stylized motifs, tassels, olive-shaped beads, and beadwork, among other things. The clock is surmounted by a fine male figure dressed and coiffed in the Oriental style, who is holding an umbrella and sits on a cushion that rests on an entablature decorated with scallops, under which is fixed the oscillating bimetallic pendulum.

    According to Svend Eriksen, the first true lyre clock model is in the Royal Swedish Collection (see Early Neoclassicism in France, London, 1974). In France, the general makeup of the lyre clock changed very little since its creation, which is thought to have taken place in the late 1750s or the early years of the following decade. However, while the form of lyre clocks did not significantly evolve, the materials used, as well as the ingenious and complex movements, underwent considerable changes, reflecting the changing tastes of connoisseurs and demonstrating the extraordinary skill of clockmakers of the time.

    The great majority of known models have a dial that is set within a bronze lyre-shaped frame, and are surmounted by a sun mask or eagle’s heads; certain clocks have Sèvres porcelain cases (for several such clocks, see P. Kjellberg, Encyclopédie de la pendule française du Moyen Age au XXe siècle, Paris, 1997, p. 224-227; and Y. Gay and A. Lemaire, “Les pendules lyre”, in Bulletin de l’association nationale des collectionneurs et amateurs d’horlogerie ancienne, 1993, n° 68, fig. 53 and 62).

    Subtly blending the characteristics of lyre and skeleton clocks, the present example is extremely elegant. It stands out from other examples due to the quality of the chasing of its gilt bronze mounts and its unusual Turkish-style composition. The “à la turque” decorative style seems to have appeared in the early 1780s and was initially appreciated only by a handful of important collectors of the day, including the Count d’Artois who employed it for his Bagatelle pavilion (see the exhibition catalogue La folie d’Artois, 1988, p. 93, 104 and 105). Among the rare known examples of this type of clock, a similar model, today only partially preserved and lacking its movement, is in the Musée des Arts décoratifs in Paris (illustrated in L. Metman, Le musée des Arts décoratifs, Le bronze, 2ème album, Paris, circa 1910, plate CXVI, fig.1046).

    Jacques-Thomas Bréant (1753 - 1807)

    Born in Paris, he began as an ouvrier libre. In 1783, the year he became a master, he was established in the Enclos Saint-Martin-des-Champs. In 1783 his workshop was in the rue Saint-Martin; in 1786 he opened a shop in the Palais Royal; in 1795 he was in the rue du Temple. Among his clients were the Duke d’Orléans, the Marquis de Laval, de la Rochebrochard, d’Aulany and d’Amenoncour, the Countesses de Faudoas and de Vascoeil, the Count de Villefranche and Messieurs Michau de Montaran and L’Espine de Granville, however he went bankrupt in 1786, and again in 1788. In 1788, several case makers and enamellers were listed among his creditors, including the bronziers P. Viel, N. Florion, E. Blavet, A. Lemire, P. d’Ecosse and J. B. J. Zaccon, the gilders C. Galle, J. P. Carrangeot, L. Le Prince, and the enamellers Merlet, Bezelle, Barbichon, as well as the renowned Joseph Coteau.

    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).