A fine Sèvres porcelain and gilt-bronze Louis XVI style lyre clock of two week duration. The movement with an enamel chaptering marked with sweeping centre seconds, minutes, hours, date of the month, month of the year and painted ovals showing signs of the zodiac; with gun-metal calendar hands and gilt-brass hands for the seconds, minutes and hours, those for the minutes and hours finely pierced; the bimetallic pendulum with a ring of brilliance contained in a Sèvres porcelain and gilt-bronze mounted lyre case surmounted by a sunburst. With knife-edge pin-wheel escapement.
Paris, date circa 1870
Height 60 cm.
The eminent French royal porcelain factory of Sevres began producing lyre clocks from 1785. This magnificent example dates nearly a century later, however one can see that the skills needed to produce the highly finished porcelain, intricate gilt-bronze mounts and decorative enamel dial continued long into the nineteenth century Lyre clocks first became popular during the late eighteenth century, as one of a number of highly decorative case shapes inspired by Antiquity Based on the classical musical instrument, Sevres lyre clocks followed the same basic design. The clock was cleverly arranged so that the pendulum rods appear above the main dial to look like the strings of the instrument. The pendulum bob was formed as a large ring, encircling the dial, which turns with every swing of the pendulum; it was set with either gilt-bronze beads, or as here, with paste brilliants. The case itself was decorated with gilt-bronze mounts forming laurel branches below, floral swags above and surmounted by an Apollo mask on a sunburst. Not all lyre clocks were made of porcelain, some were worked in marble and others in bronze. The finest in porcelain were those made by Sevres who produced models in a range of colours - turquoise blue, green and pink, though their most popular colour was the same dark blue as one sees here.
Louis XVI was one of many who admired their elegance and grace and in 1786 acquired two examples for his palace at Versailles. George IV of England was equally enchanted by their design and in 1818 purchased a similar model, now one of a number of Sevres lyre clocks in the British royal collection. George IVs clock was fitted with a movement by the Parisian clockmaker, D. D. Kinable (active c. 1780-1825). Another similar example can be found in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London which bears a striking resemblance to this later work of circa 1870.
During the latter nineteenth century lyre clocks were once more extremely fashionable. For instance the Victoria and Albert Museum clock was acquired during the 1860's or 70s by the connoisseur, John Jones who bequeathed it in 1882, together with the rest of his magnificent art collection. Another similar Sevres lyre clock was sold in the Hamilton Palace sale c. 1882 for the substantial sum of £ 500; and at a similar date the Rothschilds acquired a late eighteenth century marble lyre clock for their new home at Waddesdon Manor. It is likely that Sèvres thus produced a number of new but similar clocks to meet this renewed demand. Then followed a long period when such works of art were largely overlooked. However the revived interest in all aspects of nineteenth century art, combined with a major reappraisal of Sèvres porcelain during the last decade has ensured that works such as this are seen in a new light. This clock is a really fine example of Sevres craftsmanship, which the collector could acquire at a fraction of the cost of its original prototype.