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Thématiques: Revolutionary Calendar

  • Filon
    Claude-Charles-François Filon

    Exceptional Gilt Bronze Mantel Clock with Gregorian and Republican Calendars


    Paris, Directoire period, circa 1795

    Height35 Width29 Depth11.5

    This magnificent gilt bronze and blue turquin marble clock is shaped as an antique urn with handles formed by interlacing snakes. Supported on a leaf-decorated pedestal; the urn’s lower portion is adorned with gadrooning. Its grooved cover is surmounted by a bouquet centred by a leaf and seed finial. The mid-portion of the urn features two superposed horizontal rings with enamel cartouches for the Roman numeral hours and Arabic numeral minutes. The urn is set upon a square pillar that is flanked by scrolls decorated with acanthus leaves; its façade is engraved “Filon à Paris”. It features three enamel ring dials, each bearing both Gregorian and Republican calendar indications. The first displays the days of the week and decade (period of ten days); the second indicates the Gregorian and Republican dates; the third shows the Gregorian and Republican months. The stepped rectangular blue turquin marble base is decorated with ribbon-tied friezes of scrolling foliage, one of which pivots to reveal the winding holes. The clock is raised upon eight flattened ball feet.

    After the revolution, a new calendar and new systems of time measurement were introduced – the Republican calendar and the decimal time system. The Republican calendar was in use for several years, until the “year XIV”; decimal time was shorter-lived. Decimal time, which went into effect on September 22, 1792, divided the day into ten hours rather than twelve. Each hour was made up of one hundred minutes, which were in turn comprised of one hundred seconds. However, while the decimal time system – also called the “revolutionary” system – was introduced by the law of 4 Frimaire, year II (November 24, 1793), it was suspended only eighteen months later, with the law of 18 Germinal, year III (April 7, 1795). While the system was in use, clockmakers designed ingenious conversion systems and created elaborate movements, sometimes displaying both the old and the new systems. This shows how difficult people found Revolutionary time measurement. This was the context in which the present clock, probably one-of-a-kind, was created. It is extremely rare and its gilt bronze and blue turquin marble Neoclassical case, as well as its ingenious movement by the clockmaker Filon, displaying both Gregorian and Republican systems, are exceptionally fine.

    Claude-Charles-François Filon

    Claude-Charles-François Filon is one of the most important Parisian clockmakers of the second half of the 18th century. After becoming a master clockmaker in 1782, he opened a workshop in the rue de la Monnaie and became earned the patronage of influential Parisian collectors of the time. In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, his clocks were mentioned in the probate inventories of important collectors, including the banker Joseph Duruey, the lawyer Nicolas-Philippe de Rebergues and Louis-Alexandre Berthier, Prince de Wagram, formerly one of Napoleon’s Marshals.

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    Gilt Bronze, Enamel and Marble Skeleton Clock with Revolutionary Calendar


    Paris, Louis XVI period, circa 1793-94

    Height 41 cm, width 27 cm, depth 14 cm

    Height41 Width27 Depth14

    A late Louis XVI three-dialled gilt bronze-mounted enamel and white marble eight day going skeleton clock, signed Laurent à Paris on the arch below the main dial. The main white enamel ring dial, with gilt bronze beaded bezel, has black Arabic numerals for the hours and minutes, outer red Arabic numerals for the date, and the Revolutionary days of the week painted in red enamel along the inside edge; fine pierced gilt brass hands for the hours and minutes and plain blued steel pointers for the seconds and the date. The skeletonised movement, visible through the cutout portion of the dial, has a small Graham escapement, knife-edge suspension, striking on the hour and half hour on a single bell, with outside count wheel. Above the main dial, a subsidiary dial indicates the moon phases and age, with a finely painted on enamel moon against a starry blue sky and a sector numbered from 1 to 29 ½ in blue for the days of the lunar month. Below the blue enamel arch, a white enamel subsidiary ring dial indicates the months of the Gregorian calendar in black and the Revolutionary calendar in red. The arched frame, with star-studded blue enamel decorative plaques, rests on four flattened bun feet; the rectangular white marble base is adorned with gilt bronze beading and a pierced leaf and berry frieze on all four sides. The whole reposes on four toupie feet.

    Similar skeleton clocks are illustrated in Pierre Kjellberg, Encyclopédie de la Pendule Française du Moyen Age au XXe Siècle, 1997, p. 319, pl. C and G. A comparable clock, with Revolutionary calendar, is in the Carnavalet Museum in Paris; another similar model, signed “Ridel à Paris”, is in the François Duesberg Museum in Mons, Belgium.

    Skeletonised clocks, in which the movement is showcased rather than being hidden, came into fashion toward the end of Louis XVI’s reign. Several explanations may be advanced for this: first, the technical advances made during the 18th century, which incited clockmakers to put their movements on display and made the public curious to discover them; and secondly, the preference for less massive, more delicate, clock cases, in marked contrast to the Louis XV and early Louis XVI styles. The ethereal appearance of these clocks was heightened by the use of painted polychrome enamel plaques instead of chased bronze work to decorate the clocks.


    Laurent was a clockmaker active in the late 18th century.

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