Hans Ottomeyer and Peter Pröschel, "Vergoldete Bronzen", 1986, p. 157, pl. 3.2.5, illustrating a chenet with a very similar Chinese lady upon a classical sockle in the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Lyon. Pierre Kjellberg, "Encyclopédie de la Pendule Française du Moyen Age au XXe Siècle", 1997, p. 117, pl. G, illustrating an almost identical clock with patinated bronze figure and clock dial signed Romilly à Paris. Elke Niehüser, "Die Französische Bronzeuhr", 1997, p. 200, pl. 69, illustrating an almost identical clock.
A magnificent Louis XV gilt bronze figural mantel clock à la Chinoise of eight day duration with beautiful case attributed to Philippe Caffiéri, signed on the white enamel dial Masson à Paris and also signed and dated on the two mainsprings Buzot Avril 1766. The dial with outer Arabic minute numerals, inner Roman hour numerals and a fine pair of pierced gilt brass hands. The movement with anchor escapement, silk thread suspension, striking on the hour and half-hour with outside count wheel. The clock on a spreading classical angular base and surmounted by copious palm fronds set beside a Chinese style lady wearing Oriental costume reclining upon a scrolling rocaille base with her right hand resting on her knee and the other upon the clock drum
Paris, date circa 1766
Height 41 cm, width 36 cm, depth 12 cm.
This well-known clock case model has been identified with a clock on the mantelpiece of the Duc de Choiseuil's bedchamber depicted in miniatures dating from 1770 by Louis-Nicolas van Blarenberghe. The model is related to chenets dating from about 1760 incorporating Chinese figures of a type found in the inventories of Jacques and Philippe Caffiéri (see F. J. B. Wilson, "The Choiseuil Box", 1963). The celebrated fondeur-ciseleur, Jacques Caffiéri (1678-1755) and his son Philippe (1714-74) were responsible for creating some of the finest gilded bronze work in the Rococo style. Several inventories were drawn up listing the various and numerous models produced by the Caffiéris; the first in 1747 marked the beginning of their partnership. Another was drawn up in 1755 following Jacques death and a third inventory was made in 1770.
In addition to the related figural chenet in the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Lyon (illustrated in Ottomeyer and Pröschel, ibid. p.157) there is another similar model in the Wrightsman Collection in the Metropolitan Museum, New York, which again as here can be attributed to the Caffiéris. A similar clock case with movement by Jean-Baptiste-Andre Furret (active 1746, d. 1807) was formerly in the Elizabeth Parke Firestone Collection until it was sold at auction in New York, 1991.
Interest in the Orient was an integral part of the Rococo movement. The Chinoiserie style as it was known was later eclipsed by the growing preoccupation with classical design during the subsequent Neo-classical movement during the second half of the eighteenth century. While the present model ostensibly belongs to the Rococo, the more classical shaping of the clock base reflects new interest in classical forms.
The clock movement was almost certainly made by Denis Masson (d. 1784), who was one of the great Parisian clock makers working in the second half of the eighteenth century. Masson made his ouvrier libre in 1744 at which date he was established at abbaye Saint-Germain-des-Prés. Two years later he was received as a maître-horloger on 1st March 1746 by virtue of the decree of 1st February that year. 1747 recorded him at pont Notre-Dame and then later in 1778 at rue Sainte-Avoye. Masson's name is always associated with clocks featuring very finely made cases in both the Rococo and newly emerging Neo-classical style. Among them are a number housed in fine and elaborate Rococo Meissen porcelain cases. His gilt bronze cases were also of the finest quality, some of which were supplied by the-fondeur, Jean-Baptiste Vallé as well as Balthazar Lieutaud, Antoine Foullet, Edmé Roy and the Caffiéris. Masson is also known to have fitted his movements with springs made by some of the leading craftsmen in this specialized field - among them were Gaspard Richard and Charles Buzot. It is therefore very exciting to find that two mainsprings here are signed and dated "Buzot Avril 1766". Charles Buzot had an important workshop where he specialized in the production of clock springs. He was subsequently joined by his son Jean-Charles Buzot, who in 1754 served an apprenticeship under the eminent maker, Ferdinand Berthoud.
In 1763 Masson was declared bankrupt but was however able to continue working, counting among his clients many European aristocracy. They included the prince and princesse de Condé, the duc d'Havré, the duchesses de Mazarin and de Villeroy, the marquis de Crécy and de Persan, the président Bochard de Saron and Madame Infanta at Parma. Today one can find Masson's work among some of the finest public collections notably at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London; Neues Schloss, Bayreuth; the Residenzmuseum Munich and at the Palazzo di Quirinale in Rome.