The Abdy Collection, England. Palais Galliera, Paris, 27th March 1965, lot 45. Purchased by a private Parisian collector.
Tardy, "La Française des Origines Pendule `a Nos Jours", 1961, vol. I, p. 189, illustrating this clock. Pierre Kjellberg, "Encyclopédie de la Pendule Française du Moyen Age au XXe Siècle", 1997, p. 106, pl. B, illustrating this clock.
A very important and rare Louis XV gilt bronze cartel clock by the eminent horologer Julien Le Roy housed in a magnificent case almost certainly by Jacques Caffiéri and stamped with a C-couronné poinçon, also signed on the central white enamel dial plaque Julien Le Roy and similarly so on the movement, the foliate cast gilt dial set with twelve white enamel cartouches with Roman numerals for the hours and twelve outer enamel cartouches with Arabic numerals for the five minute intervals, with a fine pair of blued steel hands. The pierced asymmetrical rocaille case decorated overall with floral and foliate scrolls surmounted by a putto holding a compass personifying Geometry with a bird with wings outstretched in front of the pendulum aperture
Paris, date circa 1745-49
Height 95 cm.
This superb clock with rare, possibly unique case epitomises the supreme collaborative skills of the 18th century Parisian clock and case makers to create an item of sumptuous luxury for the ruling elite. The similarities with other models yet its unique design and high quality all suggest that the case was the work of the eminent bronzier Jacques Caffiéri (1678-1755) who often supplied the master clockmaker Julien Le Roy (1686-1759).
Among them was a similar cartel, dated 1747 decorated with the figures of Minerva and Cupid, now in the J. Paul Getty Museum, California. The present cartel is of a similar date since it is stamped with a C-couronné poinçon (proof of a tax payment imposed between March 1745 and February 1749). Another similar case by Caffiéri surmounted by Cupid was formerly in the Keck Collection at La Lanterne Bel Air (sold in New York December 1991) as well another surmounted by a putto sold in Paris in June of the same year. Generally regarded as the most famous eighteenth century French clockmaker, Julien Le Roy significantly raised the standards of the Parisian clock trade.
As the leader in his field his clientele included the cream of society including Louis XV and members of his court notably the Prince and Princess, the duc d'Orléans and Cardinal de Fleury. As a result of Le Roy's friendship with the British clockmaker, Henry Sully and his senior colleague, William Blakey, a number of high quality English and Dutch makers were introduced into Parisian workshops. This, as well as Le Roy's own advances in the quest to improve accurate time measurement, actively encouraged renewed life into the flagging Parisian trade. Born in Tours, he trained under his father, Pierre Le Roy and by the age of 13 had already made his own clock. In 1699 Julien Le Roy moved to Paris, where he was apprenticed under Le Bon; it is said that while there he succeeded in making and completing a watch in only eight days. Received as a maître-horloger in 1713, he later became a juré of his guild; he also became a member and later a director of the Société des Arts. But his most important appointment began in 1739 when he was made Horloger Ordinaire du Roi to Louis XV.
He was given lodgings in the Louvre, which he never occupied. Instead he installed his son, Pierre (1717-85) and continued to operate his own business from rue de Harlay, where he remained for the rest of his life. Le Roy's innovations and improvements were substantial, notably his perfection of monumental clocks that showed mean and true time, of which his model at Hôtel des Missions Etrangères was exemplary. Le Roy also researched equation movements showing and chiming true time and advanced pull repeat mechanisms. He also resolved many problems to do with watchmaking to ensure they were easier to construct and simpler to maintain. One aspect was his adoption of George Graham's cylinder, which eventually resulted in reducing the watch's thickness. George Graham was among his many admirers, who on inspecting Le Roy's work once noted "I would like to be younger so as to make watches like this".
Due to his unrivalled success, Le Roy was not limited by commercial constraints; for instance he nearly always made high quality watches and clocks in pairs so that the case and decoration perfectly matched. He generally chose the cases himself, which were provided by the very finest makers of his day, not only from the Caffiéri family but also A-C. Boulle - father and son, C. Cressent, J-J. de Saint-Germain, R. Osmond, B. Lieutaud, A. Foullet and others. A-N. Martinière, N. Julien and possibly E. Barbezat generally made his dials. Julien Le Roy's work can be found among the world's greatest collections including the Musées du Louvre, Cognacq-Jay, Jacquemart-André and Petit Palais in Paris. Other examples are housed at Château de Versailles, at the Victoria and Albert Museum and Guildhall in London and at Waddesdon Manor, Buckinghamshire.
The Musée d'Horlogerie, La Chaux-de-Fonds and Museum der Zeitmessung Bayer, Zurich as well as the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam and Musées Royaux d'Art et d'Histoire, Brussels all house his work, as do the Museum für Kunsthandwerck, Dresden, the National Museum Stockholm and Musea Nacional de Arte Antigua, Lisbon. Works by Le Roy in American collections include the J. P. Getty Museum, California; the Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore and the Detroit Institute of Art. Like Le Roy, Jacques Caffiéri was a leader in his field as one of the most prominent bronze workers during Louis XV's reign. Working as both sculptor and fondeur-ciseleur he created many of the original designs for proprietary models that were subsequently cast in bronze. On the request of Cardinal Mazarin, Jacques Caffiéri's father, Philippe (1634-1716) emigrated from Naples to Paris and subsequently worked for the French crown to become sculpteur du Roi.
Jacques was his tenth child; he was elected to the Académie de Saint-Luc as a sculptor and shortly before 1715 was accepted as a maître fondeur-ciseleur. From then until his death he resided at rue des Canettes. From 1736 onward he was constantly employed by the Crown, being appointed fondeur-ciseleur des Bâtiments du Roi and as such produced works for the palaces at Fontainebleau, Versailles, Choisy, Marly and others. His most important royal commissions included the creation of a large astronomical clock with movement by Dauthiau after designs by C.-S. Passement, now at Versailles as well as two monumental high Rococo chandeliers in gilt bronze, now in the Wallace Collection, London.
Caffiéri was also commissioned by the Crown to execute two large gilt bronze mirror frames after designs by the architect A.-J. Gabriel, which Louis XV presented to the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire. He also made mounts for furniture as well as chimney-pieces for several royal residences. In addition to prominent collections cited above, Jacques Caffiéri's work can be admired in many other important world collections including the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, the Residenzmuseum in Munich as well as Cleveland Museum of Art.