Christie's New York, 17th December 1986, lot 507. Lily and Edmond J. Safra.
Cedric Jagger, 'Royal Clocks' 1983, p. 130, pl. 176, illustrating a very similar Sèvres beau bleu lyre clock with movement by Kinable and dial by Dubuisson; and p. 131, pl. 178, illustrating another almost identical clock with movement by Jean-Antoine Garrigues, both in the British al Collection. Pierre Verlet, 'Les Bronzes Doré Français du XVIIIe Siècle' 1987, p. 41, illustrating a Sèvres beau bleu lyre clock of 1787 with enamel work by Joseph Coteau, originally at Versailles and now in the Musée du Louvre. Tardy, 'Les Plus Belles Pendules Françaises', 1994, p. 81, illustrating a very similar Sèvres lyre clock with mounts by Duplessis, movement by Kinable and dial by Coteau in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. Jean-Dominique Augarde, 'Les Ouvriers du Temps', 1996, p. 258, pl. 203, illustrating a very similar beau bleu Sèvres lyre clock with movement by Garrigues and dial attributed to Coteau probably made for the duc d'Orléans. Pierre Kjellberg, 'Encyclopédie de la Pendule Française du Moyen Age au XXe Siècle'97, p. 230, pl. A, illustrating a similar bleu turquoise Sèvres porcelain lyre clock with movement by Kinable and pl. B, illustrating another very similar beau bleu Sèvres lyre clock with movement by Garrigues and equally beautiful Coteau dial, in the Musé de Sèvres. Elke Niehäuser, 'Die Französische Bronzeuhr' 1997, p. 261, pls. 1256-1259, illustrating variations of the present model.
An important Louis XVI gilt bronze mounted Sèvres beau bleu porcelain lyre clock of eight day duration with extremely fine enamel work by Joseph Coteau and movement by Dieudonné Kinable, signed on the white enamel dial Kinable à Paris and also signed Coteau below 6 o'clock and also signed and dated on the dial reverse Coteau 1796, the dial with a Roman chapter ring and inner Arabic numerals for the 31 days of the month with outer calendar ring with the names and numbers of the days in each month surrounded by exquisite polychrome painted vignettes representing the twelve signs of the zodiac set within gilded lozenges with delicately jewelled designs between, with a very fine pair of pierced gilt brass hands for the hours and minutes and blued steel pointers for the calendar indications.
The movement with pin wheel escapement, striking on the hour and half hour, with outside count wheel. The beautiful lyre-shaped case with beaded gilt bronze borders and an applied gilded laurel wreath, surmounted by a fine gilt bronze Apollo mask within a sunburst above a pair of rosettes from which suspend fruiting swags, with a five rod gridiron pendulum with a free-swinging gilt beaded and paste brilliants ring surrounding the dial, on an stepped elliptical pedestal hung with floral garlands and mounted with rope-twist and beaded borders on bun feet
Paris, dated 1796
Height 62 cm, width 27 cm, depth 16 cm.
The Sèvres Royal Porcelain Factory began producing lyre clocks from about 1785 although the case shape dates much earlier when in 1724 Jacques Thuret supplied a clock with a carved gilt wood lyre-shaped case to the Académie Française. However, it was not until the later part of the century that such clocks became really fashionable, as one of a number of decorative cases inspired by antiquity. Sèvres produced these models in a variety of colours, from green and pink but those in bleu turquoise and bleu bleu (formerly known as bleu nouveau) proved the most popular. In 1786 Louis XVI purchased a pair of blue-ground lyre clocks for 384 livres. One of them may have been the same as the clock described in an 1787 inventory, which fitted with a movement by Courieult and dial by Joseph Coteau is now in the Musée du Louvre. It was valued at 192 livres (exactly half the price paid for the pair the previous year) and was thus slightly more expensive than others that sold at this period, the higher value most probably being on account of the richly enamelled dial for which Joseph Coteau was renowned.
The Parisian clockmaker Dieudonné Kinable (fl. 1780-1825) was one of the more important makers to be associated with such clocks and was in fact the largest buyer of Sèvres lyre cases to the extent that between 1795 and 1797 he purchased 13 such models and by 1806 had purchased 14 other cases from the factory. Based at Palais Royal no 131, Kinable also specialised in skeleton clocks, many of which were also housed in elaborate enamelled cases and boasted dials supplied by the two leading enamellists Etienne Gobin, known as Dubuisson (b. 1731 d. after 1815) and Joseph Coteau (1740-1801). Coteau originated from Geneva but worked primarily in Paris, where he was established in rue Poupé, St. André des Arts and was received as a mâitre in 1778. In 1780 he was appointed Peintre-Emailleur du roi et de la Manufacture Royale de Sèvres Porcelain and for the next four years did piece-work there while also working independently in Paris as a flower painter, specializing in enamelling watchcases and clock dials. By 1784 he had fallen out with Sèvres and thereafter worked as an independent enamellist supplying the very finest dials, plaques and even fully decorated enamel cases to other leading Parisian clockmakers.
Of particular interest is the date 1796 on the back of the dial, denoting the year that Coteau completed it although the case itself was probably made a decade before. Such clocks took many years to finish; in this instance Kinable would have bought the case from Sèvres several years before but not necessarily have assembled all the parts until later on, most probably when he had found a suitable client. By 1796 the Revolution was still in full force and although many dials made at this period showed the new decimal Republican time system it is interesting that Coteau's dial features the Gregorian calendar with its 31 days as opposed to 30 days of the month.
JOSEPH COTEAU (1740-1801). FRENCH
Painted enamel and porcelain dials became increasingly popular during the reign of Louis XVI, reaching perfection in the hands of Joseph Coteau and Gobin Etienne (known as Dubuisson). Coteau was born in Geneva, Switzerland but is known to have practised his specialised craft in Paris. During his maturity he was established at Rue Toupee in the parish of Sant-Andre-des-Arts, where he remained until his death. At the age of 23 he produced the dial for a musical clock by Daille, horologer to Madame la Dauphine, 1763(Wallace Collection, London). Coteau attained such repute that he only ever supplied to the most eminent horologists, including Antide Janvier (1751-1835), Robert Robin (1742-1809) and Ferdinand Berthoud (1727-1807). He is also known to have decorated pieces of jewellery.
Coteau clock dials have a characteristic style, due as much to their superior quality as to their subject. His most distinct decoration consisted of delicate numerals with small garlands of flowers but more usually with signs of the zodiac, each element worked as an individual miniature. Other dials had little or no extra ornament except for the classical Louis XVI style numerals, such as his dial for the Avignon Clock, 1771 (Wallace Collection, London), with the movement by Delunesy and elaborate gilt bronze case sculptured by Louis-Simon Boizot (1743-1809) and executed by Pierre Gouthiere (1732-C.1812). At other times Coteau supplied decorative bands to accompany clock cases, such as an enamel frieze around a vase adorning one of Robert Robin's elaborate clocks, c.1780 (Wallace Collection, London). The band, painted in grisaille, depicts the seasons personified by infants playing and is interspersed by four cameo heads. A similar clock was supplied to Marie Antoinette for Chateau St. Cloud. Decorative dials and their accompanying complex quality movements fell in demand during the Revolution, however Coteau was patronised by the new government to create a number of Republican ten hour dials.
It appears that Coteau never enamelled watches or small scale pieces but specialised in larger works, which were technically more complex due to shrinkage during firing. The techniques required a high degree of skill to achieve a perfect finish. Coteau experimented with various polychromes, producing a blue that was so rare and complex that few if any of his contemporaries managed to copy. The enamel paint was applied with a brush onto a copper plate and the various colours vitrified one by one in a muffle kiln. The decoration was then enhanced by delicate gilding, which after firing resulted in a matt finish, the gilding was finally burnished to restore its metallic brightness.
Coteau dials are extremly rare, they are sometimes "secretly" inscribed on the reverse, in either pen or bruch. In addition to their scarcity and their supreme quality, his dials and enamel plaques only accompanied the most complex quality mechanisms. For these reasons his work is a tru prize and significantly enhances the value of any clock. Examples of his work can be found in a number of European museums, including Mobilier National, Musee des Arts Decoratifs, Paris; Carnavelet Museum, Dijon Museum, and in London at the Wallace Collection and Victoria and Albert Museum.
Copyright by Richard Redding , Zurich, all rights reserved.