“French Empire Clocks in the British Embassy at Paris”, in “Connoisseur”, January 1965, p. 7, illustrating a similar clock with movement by Dubuc le Jeune à Paris. Marie-Christine Delacroix, “Les Pendules au Nègre”, in “L’Estampille l’Objet d’Art”, no. 100, August 1978, pp. 14-15, featuring a similar clock with dial unmarked. Hans Ottomeyer and Peter Pröschel, “Vergoldete Bronzen”, 1986, p. 381, pl. 5.15.25, illustrating a very similar case with a splayed base on toupie feet by Jean-Simon Deverberie and movement by Gaulin à Paris. Tardy, “Les Plus Belles Pendules Françaises”, 1994, pp. 246-7, illustrating Deverberie’s original drawing for the case, in the Bibliothèque National and three other very similar cases but again with splayed bases on toupie feet. Elke Niehüser, “Die Französische Bronzeuhr”, 1997, p. 146, pl. 236, showing a very similar case with splayed base and dial signed Ridel à Paris and p. 238, pl. 811, illustrating an identical clock. Pierre Kjellberg, “Encyclopédie de la Pendule Française du Moyen Age au XXe Siècle”, 1997, p. 351, featuring an almost identical clock with butterfly pendulum, lacking the lion paw feet below the plinth and dial signed Caillouet à Paris. Charlotte Vignon, “Deverberie & Cie: Drawings, Models, and Works in Bronze”, in “Cleveland Studies in the History of Art”, vol. 8, 2003, p. 176, pl. 3, illustrating a design by Jean-Simon Deverberie of 1798-99, in the Cabinet des Estampes, Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Paris, for a clock case of almost identical design to include the arched plinth, lion paw feet and marble base but instead of the figure of an African huntress there is a vase of flowers with abundant sprays as well as additional sheaves of wheat and acanthus scrolls issuing from the sides of the plinth; and p. 182-183, pls. 8a-b, illustrating a pair of Deverberie chenets in the Cleveland Museum of Art that are surmounted by female figures seated upon a plinth with lion paw feet of almost identical form as here.
A rare and extremely fine Directoire gilt and patinated bronze and white marble Pendule ‘À L’Afrique’ of eight day duration signed on the white enamel dial à Paris housed in a magnificent case attributed to Jean-Simon Deverberie, the dial with 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 on a single bell, with outside count wheel. The magnificent drum-shaped case surmounted by a seated figure of a half-draped African huntress with white enamel eyes and drop earrings, wearing a feathered skirt, a beaded necklace and arm bands and plain bands around her wrists, chest and ankles, holding a bow in her left hand, an arrow in her right and quiver of arrows across her back, seated below to the left is a crouching panther while to the right her feet rest on a turtle, the whole on a shaped arched plinth mounted with exotic foliage within a laurel leaf border, hanging between the arch an ornate pierced gilded pendulum portraying nude Bacchantes with grapes and ewers at centre surrounded by a ring of vine leaves and surmounted by a pair of butterflies, the whole supported on four hairy lion paw feet resting on a white marble base on toupie feet
Paris, date circa 1800
Height 60 cm, width 41 cm, depth 10 cm.
This magnificent clock and its companion l’Amèrique reflects the late eighteenth century interest in le bon sauvage, as first aired by Jean-Jacques Rousseau, whose ‘Discourse on the Origin of Inequality’, 1754 proposed that beauty and innocence of nature was extended from plants and trees. In 1767 the French explorer Bougainville arrived in Tahiti followed by Captain Cook in 1769. After hearing of the happy and harmonious life of the South Sea islanders, many of the leading figures from London and Parisian began to question their own corrupt European society in relation to the innocence of the native islanders. In due course the notion of le bon sauvage was to inspire some of the greatest literary works of the period such as Paul et Virginie (1787) by Bernardin de Saint-Pierre and Atala (1801) by Vicomte de Chateaubriand, which like Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe (1719) or Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels (1724) encapsulated Europe’s fascination with the exotic. In addition to literature the concept of the le bon sauvage inspired both the fine and decorative arts and in particular gave rise to a number of innovative clock cases au Nègre (with African figures) such as this or aux Indiens (with Native American figures).
One of the finest designers and makers of such clocks was Jean-Simon Deverberie (1764-1824) whose original drawing of 1798-9 for the l’Afrique’ as well as its companion l'Amèrique are included in his album of clock designs now housed in the Cabinet des Estampes in the Bibliothèque National, Paris. Both models were produced from 1799 and continued in popularity up until about 1815. The first of Deverberie’s clock cases along this theme was La Négress, which was delivered by Furet and Godon to Louis XVI’s wife, Marie-Antoinette in 1784 while other of his celebrated models include his l'Indien et l'Indienne enlaceés.
Almost identical models of this wonderful clock, representing the personification of Africa, can be found among such prestigious collections as the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris which as here is simply signed à Paris. Two other examples are housed in the Musée Duesberg at Mons, one of which has movement by Ridel and the other by Bonnet. Other examples are signed on the dial by the Parisian clockmakers Armingault, Thiéry, Sirost and Thonissen as well as Ribot à Montélimar while some examples are merely signed De Verberie à Paris or Deberberie et Cie Rue des Fossés du Temple no. 47 à Paris.
The present case with its distinctive arched-shaped plinth on hairy lion paw feet and plain rectangular marble base is very rare since most of Deverberie’s clock cases showing allegories of Africa or America have a splayed ovoid-shaped base mounted with serpent-tied garlands and sometimes also with a frieze of putti on the front. What is of particular interest is that the shape and the ornamentation of the plinth directly corresponds to one of Deverberie’s pen and ink design of 1798-99 (housed in the Cabinet des Estampes, Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Paris) for another clock surmounted by a bouquet of flowers in a vase instead of the present figure, which is signed and inscribed “No. 8 De Verberie/Du trois pluvois an Sept”. Furthermore, a pair of Deverberie chenets surmounted by a young women and originally a leaping greyhound, dating from 1790-1800, now in the Cleveland Museum of Arts feature the same arched plinth supported on lion paw feet but lacking the marble base.
Although the exact date when Deverberie became a maître bronzier is unknown, we know that he was working as a caster in 1788 and that he married Marie Louise Verron but had no children. An article by Charlotte Vignon from Cleveland Museum of Art notes that he may have been the same Deverberie who specialised as a watchcase maker and that after the abolition of the guilds in 1791, he opened a bronze casting and clock factory with Jean George Hertzog. Having been established at rue Barbet in Paris, Deverberie then moved to rue des Fossés du Temple where he ran the firm of Deverberie et Cie. The lifting of the guild regulations during the French Revolution allowed casters, who during the ancient règime were strictly limited to working in bronze, to now develop their own factories. Deverberie was one such man who took advantage of this freedom so that now all stages of the bronze making process, from casting, gilding, assembly and retail could occur in one workshop. In this he proved so successful that by 1803 his business was worth 104,000 francs.
Deverberie et Cie made a range of luxury bronze objects from chenets and fire grates to candelabra and chandeliers however clock cases were the firm’s speciality. A large variety of clockmakers supplied the movements including the Imperial clockmakers Henri Lepaute and Lépine as well as Lemoine, Marc Sandoz and Dubuc (Dubucq). Sometimes Deverberie contracted part of the gilding to Jean Claude Herouard, Jean-Jacques Dubois and others and also bought in glass globe covers for his clock cases from the famous glass blower Jean-Baptiste Binet as well as marble from Gilles l’ainé. In contrast to a number of other major bronziers, Deverberie did not directly supply the Garde-Meuble though he may have done so through as intermediary. Rather he tended to supply private clientele and also sold his cases elsewhere in Europe, hence one has the name of Christophe Noseda à Marsailles on the dial or in the case of one of his pendules d’Amèrique – the name of Aubineau of Strasbourg. Deverberie’s cases were also sent to Brest, Moscow and for the Turkish export market.
Ever keen to exhibit his bronzes throughout Europe, in 1802 Deverberie sent goods worth 40,000 francs to the Leipzig fair. This may have been on the suggestion of Jean-André Reiche who originated from Leipzig and like Deverberie was the very finest and main maker of pendules de Nègre.