Hans Ottomeyer and Peter Pröschel, "Vergoldete Bronzen", 1986, p. 252, pl. 4.6.25, illustrating a skeletonised lyre clock housed in a comparable case, signed on the dial Manière à Paris, in Château de Versailles. Tardy, "Les Plus Belles Pendules Françaises", 1994, p. 83, illustrating two similar clocks, one with a skeletonised dial and the other with a plainer dial and movement by Louis-Michel Harel, in the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris. Pierre Kjellberg, "Encyclopédie de la Pendule Française du Moyen Age au XXe Siècle", 1997, p. 225, illustrating another similar clock, with movement by Gaston Jolly, with a less elaborate and skeletonised dial. J.O. Scherer, "Antike Uhren", pl. XV. Elke Niehüser, "Die Französische Bronzeuhr", 1997, pp. 260-61, pls. 1242-46, illustrating similar lyre clocks but non with a central moon phase dial.
A highly important and extremely rare Louis XVI gilt bronze and marble lyre clock by Joseph-Simon Cousin, with an exceptionally fine painted dial with central moon phase by Joseph Coteau, signed on the dial Cousin Hr De Mgr C. D'Artois and Coteau à Paris below 6 o'clock. The dial with outer Arabic numerals for the minutes interspersed with gilt ribbon-tied coloured beads, the central ring with Roman numerals for the hours and an inner ring for the 31 day month, the dial centred by a superb blue and gilt star studded moon phase with upper markings for the 29 ½ days in the lunar month, with a very fine pair of pierced gilt brass hands for the hours and minutes, the former with a fleur-de-lis pointer, and a fine pair of blued steel hands for sweep centre seconds and calendar indications. The free-swinging dial with beaded bezel and movement acting as the clock's pendulum, the skeletonised movement with pin wheel escapement striking on the hour and half hours. Housed in a partly pierced beaded, floral and foliate lyre-shaped case, the top crowned by a pair of eagle heads with floral and fruiting swags surmounted by a bouquet of sunflowers, on an oval waisted white marble base with pearl and foliate bands and hung with chains, on bun feet
Paris, date circa 1785
Height 57 cm, width 28 cm, depth 10 cm.
This exquisite clock is extremely rare, others with similar cases are known, a number of which are in very important public collections but very few, if any, feature as here a central moon phase dial. Added to this the enamel dial was painted by one of history's greatest enamellists Joseph Coteau (1740-1812), who only very rarely signed his dials. 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 maître in 1778. In 1780 he was appointed Peintre-émailleur 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 Paris clockmakers including Robert Robin and Ferdinand Berthoud, both clockmakers to Louis XVI.
The movement was made by Joseph-Simon Cousin (b. 1754 d. after 1789), who in 1768 began an apprenticeship under Pierre-Laurent Gautrin and was received as a maître in June 1778. Just four years he was appointed Deputé of his guild, a year or so after he had been given the title of Horloger de Monsieur le Comte d'Artois in recognition as his position as clockmaker to King Louis XVI's younger brother Charles-Philippe (1757-1836) known as the Comte d'Artois until he reigned as Charles X from 1824 until the July Revolution in 1830. In 1781 Cousin was based at rue de Harlay but by 1789 had moved to rue de l'Ancienne Comédie. The clock compares with another signed on the dial by Coteau illustrated in "Richard Redding 25th Anniversary", 2002, p. 45. Although the case maker is unknown, it is known that Cousin used watch cases by F. Labdouche.
JOSEPH COTEAU (1740-1812). 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.