Alfred de Rothschild (1842-1918), no. 1 Seamore Place London; J. and S. Goldschmidt of Frankfurt, acquired in 1928; Mrs. Benjamin Stern, Her sale, Anderson Galleries, New York, 4th April 1934, lot 851.
A superb Louis XVI gilt bronze and white marble mantel clock of eight day duration, signed on the white enamel dial and on the movement Imbert L'Ainé à Paris. The dial with Roman and Arabic numerals and a fine pair of pierced gilt brass hands for the hours and minutes. The movement with anchor escapement, silk thread suspension, striking on the hour and half hour, with outside count wheel. The magnificent drum shaped case surmounted by a pair of love birds issuing from foliate sprays, the drum supported on the left by a half seated classical female figure and on the right by a standing putto, both figures on a stepped marble base mounted with a foliate scrolled frieze and foliate border on toupie feet
Paris, date circa 1780
Height 37 cm, width 21 cm.
The importance of this clock relies upon its maker, its beauty and also its provenance. The movement was made by Jean-Gabriel Imbert, known as Imbert l'Aîné (1735-95). Examples from his outstanding oeuvre can now be seen at the Musée de Carnavalet in Paris, the Patrimonio Nacional in Spain, the Residenzmuseum in Munich and the Palazzo Reale in Turin. Born in Devalon in the Bourgogne, he went to Paris where he worked as a compagnon for his brother-in-law, Jean-Charles Olin. He worked firstly ouvrier-libre before being received as a maître in 1776 and as testament to his standing was then appointed a deputé of his guild, 1780. Four years later he was declared bankrupt but this did not prevent his continuation in business. For many years his younger brother Jean-Edme, known as Imbert le Jeune (1741-1808), who was never received as a maître, worked with him at his various addresses. By 1767 Imbert l'Aîné was established at Carrefour de la Roquette, by 1781 at rue Planche-Mibray, three years later at rue des Arcis and at the time of his death in June 1795 at rue de Monceau. As one of the best in his trade he used the finest suppliers including Richard and Gaspard Monginot who made his springs while his dials were generally made by Georges-Adrien Merlet, Elie Barbezat or Bezelle. His cases were made by a range of Parisian fondeurs in particular Robert and Jean-Baptiste Osmond, Nicolas Bonnet, Michel Poisson, Jean Goyer, René-François Morlay Léonard Mary as well as François Vion, while some were gilded by Le Cat and H. Martin.
Due to their superlative quality Imbert l'Aîné's clocks were acquired by the wealthiest ranks of society such as the marquis de Brunoy and the duc de Deux-Ponts. The present clock would have been made for a person of distinction and continued to be enjoyed by illustrious collectors such as Alfred de Rothschild (1842-1918). His noted collection, much of which had been inherited from his father, was housed at Seamore Place London as well as at his mansion at Halton, Buckinghamshire. Although Alfred de Rothschild worked in the family's banking business and at one time served as a Director of the Bank of England, he preferred to pursue his love of art - a passion that others of his family shared. Rothschild developed a taste for the 17th century Dutch masters, the work of Gainsborough and Reynolds as well as 18th century works of art. He remained single so after his death his esteemed collection was dispersed in a series of sales. In 1928 the clock was acquired by the reputed firm of J. and S. Goldschmidt of Frankfurt, who had handled other important Rothschild pieces for instance a late 16th century silver gilt cup by Jacob Starck once owned by Baron Karl von Rothschild, Frankfurt. The gallery only dealt in the finest works such as an enamel dish by Jean de Court Stork depicting the wedding feast of Cupid and Psyche, which they sold to John Pierpont Morgan, New York and is now in the Walters Art Museum Baltimore. The next owner of the clock was Mrs. Benjamin Stern, whose husband and his brothers Lewis and Isaac formed Stern Brothers, a department store in New York City that eventually became part of Macy's. The Sterns had a great passion for European works art and also built up a large library of books which were sold 4-7th April 1934 at the Anderson Galleries, New York.