A rare and very beautiful Louis XVI two toned rose and yellow gilt bronze mounted Paris Porcelain mantel clock, the beautifully polychrome painted white enamel dial by Joseph Coteau signed Coteau below 6 o'clock with an outer Arabic minute and inner Roman hour ring with the numerals interspersed by ribbon-tied arrows below half medallions and swagged beads with an inner calendar ring with the 31 days of the month each within a gilt lozenge, with a very fine pair of pierced gilt brass hands for the hours and minutes and a pair of blued steel pointers for the sweep centre seconds and calendar indications. The Swiss quarter striking movement with pull repeat, striking on the quarters on two bells and on the hours on a single bell.
The magnificent case with extremely fine quality two toned gilt bronze mounts and Paris Porcelain plaques probably by Marie-Antoinette's factory at rue Thiroux or Locré, Fabrique de la Courtille surmounted by a porcelain vase painted with roses and other floral festoons and wreaths above a flaming torch and quiver of arrows, the vase issuing a gilt bronze floral and fruiting spray with scrolled foliate handles above a floral and foliate wreath surrounding the dial and linked to plinths either side set with porcelain plaques painted with flowers and vase motifs upon which are a pair of porcelain vases issuing gilt foliate sprays, the clock dial resting on a gilt draped convex formed porcelain plaque upon a shaped plinth headed by a gadrooned border and centred by a gilt bronze mounted convex shaped porcelain plaque portraying at centre a maiden kneeling in front of a brazier with winged putti behind her and surrounded by floral festoons to include quivers and wreaths, flanked either side by two sets of rectangular plaques enclosing scenes of winged putti, on a shaped gilt bronze base centred by a frieze showing putti at play in the style of Clodion and flanked either side by floral cast swags on turned toupie feet
Paris, date circa 1785
Height 78 cm, width 38 cm.
This magnificent clock with its superb quality mounts, intricately painted porcelain, its polychrome painted dial by the celebrated enamellist Joseph Coteau (1740-1812) and the fact that it appears to be unique suggests that it was made as a special order. Certainly it would have been for an important individual, probably belonging to Louis XVI's court.
The porcelain plaques were made by one of the many Paris factories that appeared after 1770 following the discovery in 1769 of kaolin, an essential component of hard paste porcelain. This discovery was a contributing factor toward the relaxation of the laws protecting the monopoly that was enjoyed by the royal Sèvres Manufactory. Until the Revolution the Sèvres factory was patronized by the King; likewise many of the newly emerging Paris factories were protected by members of the royal family or by other notable figures. These included a factory at rue Thiroux founded circa 1775 under the protection of Queen Marie-Antoinette, which changed hands many times but continued until after 1869 and whose style of ceramics and decoration was akin to the present piece. If not made at rue Thiroux the porcelain plaques may have been made by Jean-Baptiste Locré (1726-87) who in 1773 established a porcelain factory at La Courtille in the rue Fontaine-au-Roi, Paris, which he named "Fabrique de la Courtille".
As evidence of the clock's importance the dial was painted by Joseph Coteau who with Dubuisson was the very finest enamellist of his day. Originating from Geneva he 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 Parisian clockmakers.
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.