A magnificent and large Louis XV gilt bronze figural cartel clock of eight day duration, signed on the white enamel dial JN Baptiste Baillon and on the backplate, also signed and dated by the esteemed enameller on the back of the dial, a. n. martiniere p-naire du Roi 1745, housed in an extremely fine gilt bronze case by Saint-Germain stamped with a C-couronné poinçon. The dial with black Arabic and blue Roman numerals interspersed with gold enamel fleurs-de-lis, with a beautiful pair of original pierced blued steel hands for the hours and minutes. The massive three train movement striking on the quarters on two bells and on the hour and half hour on a third single bell. The magnificent case of foliate cartouche outline surmounted by the figure of Diana seated in an arbor with a hound leaping at her leg and the figure of Cupid below, the dial surrounded by foliate scrolls ornamented with flowers, foliage and a cherub
Paris, date circa 1745
Height 90 cm, width 47 cm.
This splendid case surmounted by Diana, the mythological goddess of hunting is among Jean-Joseph de Saint-Germain’s masterpieces. It compares closely with similar models by him in the Musée de Louvre, Paris and another of the same size at Stockholm Castle, illustrated in Hans Ottomeyer and Peter Pröschel, “Vergoldete Bronzen”, 1986, p. 115, pl. 2.5.4. Interestingly an inventory of Saint-Germain’s stock made after his first wife’s death in 1747 cites “un cartel à diana pour model prisé la somme de cent livres”.
As one of the leading makers of his day, Jean-Baptiste Baillon III (d. 1772) only used the finest dials such as this one made by Antoine-Nicolas Martinière (1706-84) and cases supplied by the finest makers of his day such as Jean-Joseph de Saint-Germain. Other case makers included Jean-Baptiste Osmond, Balthazar Lieutaud, the Caffieris, Vandernasse and Edmé Roy, while Chaillou executed some of his enamel work. Baillon was undoubtedly the most famous member of a long line of clockmakers and one of the most significant makers of the eighteenth century. His importance was largely due to his business acumen and the way in which he organized a vast and thriving manufactory on an unprecedented scale. His private factory in Saint-Germain-en-Laye, which was managed from 1748-57 by Jean Jodin (1715-61) and continued until 1765 when Baillon closed it, was unique in the history of eighteenth century clockmaking. The renowned horologist, Ferdinand Berthoud was among many to be impressed by its scale and quality and in 1753 noted “His [Baillon’s] house is the finest and richest Clock Shop. Diamonds are used not only to decorate his Watches, but even Clocks. He has made some whose cases were small gold boxes, decorated with diamond flowers imitating nature…His house in Saint-Germain is a kind of factory. It is full of Workmen continually labouring for him…for he alone makes a large proportion of the Clocks and Watches [of Paris]”. From there he supplied the most illustrious clientele, not least the French and Spanish royal family, the Garde-Meuble de la Couronne as well as distinguished members of Court and the cream of Paris society. Baillon’s father, Jean-Baptiste II (d. 1757) a Parisian maître and his grandfather, Jean-Baptiste I from Rouen were both clockmakers as was his own son, Jean-Baptiste IV Baillon (b. 1752 d. circa 1773). Baillon himself was received as a maître-horloger in 1727. 1738 saw his first important appointment as Valet de Chambre-Horloger Ordinaire de la Reine. He was then made Premier Valet de Chambre de la Reine sometime before 1748 and subsequently Premier Valet de Chambre and Valet de Chambre-Horloger Ordinaire de la Dauphine to Marie-Antoinette, 1770. His Parisian addresses were appropriately Place Dauphine by 1738 and rue Dauphine after 1751.
Through his success, Jean-Baptiste Baillon amassed a huge fortune, valued at the time of his death, 8th April 1772 at 384,000 livres. His own collection of fine and decorative arts were auctioned on 16th June 1772, while his remaining stock, which was valued at 55,970 livres, was put up for sale on 23rd February 1773. The sale included 126 finished watches, totalling 31,174 livres and 127 finished watch movements at 8,732 livres. There were also 86 clocks, 20 clock movements, seven marquetry clock cases, one porcelain clock case and eight bronze cases of which seven had elephant figures totalling 14,618 livres. To give some idea of the extent of his enterprise the watch movements had reached 4320 and clock movements 3808 in number.
Today we can admire Baillon’s work in some of the world’s most prestigious collections including the Parisian Musées du Louvre, des Arts Décoratifs, National des Techniques, de Petit Palais and Jacquemart-André. Other examples can be found at Château de Versailles; Musée Paul Dupuy, Toulouse; the Residenz Bamberg; Neues Schloss Bayreuth; Museum für Kunsthandwerk, Frankfurt; the Residenzmuseum Munich and Schleissheim Schloss. Further collections include the Musées Royaux d’Art et d’Histoire Brussels; Patrimonio Nacional Spain; the Metropolitan Museum, New York; Newark Museum; Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore and Dalmeny House, South Queensferry.
The story of this extraordinarily fine clock does not end here, on a recent examination, the back of the dial was found to have the signature of Antoine-Nicolas Martinière (1706-84) and the date 1745. This exciting discovery goes further to confirm the importance of the present piece. Martinière was a remarkable inventor and enamellist, whose talents so impressed King Louis XV that he was appointed Emailleur et Pensioneur du Roi. Martinière was the first enameller to create a complete single enamel dial. Because of the fragile, volatile nature of enamel, prior to this complete enamelled dials had been restricted to watches. By the late seventeenth century clock dials featured separate enamel plaques to display the hours, then followed an attempt to create complete dials out of 13 or 25 individual pieces which were fitted together to form a seemingly smooth surface. This was to change, thanks to Martinière’s dramatic technical advances circa 1740.
His unprecedented advance is best summed up in his own words, which appeared in 1740 in ‘Mercure de France’. In his ‘Lettre écrite de Paris à un horloger de Province sur les Cadrans d’Email’, Martinière wrote “You ask me, Sir, to find out from the Porcelain Manufacturers if they could make you a Clock Dial one foot in diameter, because you tell me that you know it is impossible to make any of this size all in enamel, like Watch Dials. It is true that until recently this was impossible in the City, and even at Court: here is an example. The King ordered a Clock, and H. M. wished that the Dial be all of one piece, in enamel, and 14 inches in diameter. The one who received the order could only reply that he would attempt to carry it out, not that he would succeed. The Sr Martinière, Enameller, in the rue Dauphine, undertook this task, and succeeded so well in all respects, that he had the honour of presenting it himself to His Majesty, who was agreeably surprised, and gave him signs of satisfaction with so much kindness that he returned to Paris, enchanted with so happy a success, and resolved to carry out new studies in order to advance as much in his Art as would be possible...” It was probably at this time that the King granted Martinière a pension and the title of Emailleur et Pensioneur du Roi. Louis XV, whose interest in horology extended beyond the realms of a collector but also as a benefactor, rewarded certain craftsmen of outstanding talent. In addition to Martinière, the Royal Treasury also granted pensions to a select number of clockmakers such as Julien and Pierre III Le Roy, Ferdinand Berthoud, Jean V Martinot and Pierre Millot.
In addition to Jean-Baptiste Baillon, who made the present clock, Martinière also supplied enamel dials to other esteemed clockmakers including Bailly, Lepaute and Julien Le Roy. A clock by the latter with enamel by Martinière is among the many fine clocks in the Waddesdon Manor Collection, Buckinghamshire. Other examples of his enamelled work can be found in the Wallace Collection, London, as well as the Musée de Château de Versailles and the J. Paul Getty Museum, California. Martinière and his wife, Geneviève Larsé had one son, Jacques-Nicolas (b. 1738) who became a clockmaker. At the time of his son’s birth the Martinières were living in rue Haute des Ursins. By 1740 Martinière was established at the sign of the ‘Cadran d’Email’ in rue Dauphine and then from 1741-55 in rue des Cinq Diamants in the parish of Saint-Jacques de la Boucherie.