clock 015

 Louis XVI ormoulu, tinted silvered bronze and bleu turquin marble pendule à cercles tournants.  Two amours symbolizing "Day" and "Night" are seated on clouds below an extremely well engraved terrestrial globe.  There are twenty-four separate hour enamels, twelve on a white ground for the daylight hours and twelve on a dark background for the night hours, which rotate counter-clockwise to indicate the hour at any longitude on the globe. Many cartographic features are indicated, such as the prime meridian at Greenwich, the Tropic of Cancer, the Equator and the Arctic Circle. There is a carefully delineated world map, lacking the continent of Australia, which only appears on maps drawn at a later date. A rotating ring above the hours indicates the minutes, with an enamel plaque for every five minutes. The putto symbolizing “Day” holds an arrow pointing upwards to the meridian of Paris for the local time. The figure of “Night” is partially cloaked in a blued silvered bronze mantel sewn with ormoulu stars that obscures part of the globe.

The brilliantly cast bronze doré, with superb original gilding, has exceptional chasing and wonderful contrasts between the matte and burnished sections. It is clearly the work one of the greatest bronziers, working in conjunction with a master sculptor. The noted sculptor Augustin Pajou worked with Lepaute, and the sculpture closely resembles Pajou’s style and technique. His known clock designs all seem to be for pendules à cercles tournants, for example, a clock in The Metropolitan Museum of Art also by Lepaute, with the time shown at the separation of the hemispheres of a celestial globe with a similar putto on similar clouds. In 1775, Pajou and Lepaute collaborated on a clock made for the prince de Condé also with children in clouds. A drawing by Pajou in The Albertina in Vienna shows another concept for a globe clock with clouds and putti. (See: James Draper and Guilhem Scherf: Augustin Pajou. The Metropolitan Museum of Art; New York, 1998.) Other works, not clocks, with similar sculptural features include the sculpture Vénus désarmant l’Amour in the foyer of the Opéra Royale at Versailles.)


The sculptural portion is raised on a finely fluted bleu turquin column, with very thin walls, hung with ormoulu floral swags. The hinged front swag lifts to reveal the unusual single winding hole for both the bell and going trains. The ormoulu ring at the base of the column is formed of two bands of interlaced ribbons surrounding rosettes; the top of the ribbon in the center is inscribed: “LEPAUTE” for Jean Baptiste Lepaute (1727-1802). The marble base is incised “LEPAUTE Hger”. A plate below the movement inside the column is signed "LEPAUTE HORLOGER DU ROI 1780".


There are restorers’ marks scratched onto a plate that supports the movement: the first is by Henry Lepaute (1749-1806), a member of the Lepaute dynasty, who cleaned the clock and documents work done on a pinion in February 1801. The fact that a principal of the company did the work attests to the importance of the clock to the owner and to the Lepaute company. Other work was done by another clockmaker who signed with the initials “EC” in 1820, 1841, 1849, 1856, and 1865.

An identical clock was owned by the Count d’Artois for the pink bedroom at Bagatelle.  Made of white marble, it was placed on a white marble fireplace that the Count later replaced with a bleu turquin fireplace. It is not impossible that he had the clock’s marble changed as well, but so far, no documentation of this has been found. It is also possible that Lepaute had another commission for this model from an equally distinguished client at precisely the same period. The only other known model of this clock, with a movement by Roche, is in the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Lyon, France. [The bluing of Night’s cloak is restored.]


Exhibited:  French Clocks in North American Collections. The Frick Collection; New York, 1982.  Nº 72, page 81.


Ex Collection: James Seligman, New York

Height (ins.): 14.25 (36.2 cm.)      Length/Width (ins.): 5.75 (14.6 cm.)      Depth (ins.): 5.75 (14.6 cm.)
Origin: France, 18th century     Period: Louis XVI