Tardy, "Les Plus Belles Pendules Françaises", 1994, p. 256, illustrating the present clock. And p. 213, full colour pl. LIII, illustrating an almost identical clock, signed Revel au Palais Royal no 118 on a plaque beneath the central plaque, which differs having a white enamel revolving dial band, turned feet and lacking the frieze mount on the base. Elke Niehüser, "Die Französische Bronzeuhr", 1997, p. 251, pl. 1079, illustrating the almost identical clock signed Revel.
A rare and superb late Louis XVI gilt bronze mounted white marble mantel clock, the two revolving blue enamel chapter rings with gilded Roman and Arabic numerals for the hours and minutes with the time indicated by a fixed central blued steel pointer. The substantial spring driven movement for the going and striking with a rare and intricate winding system which rather than having holes on the back or front of the case has, amidst abundant swags, two berried finials on each side, which pull out to reveal a key at their ends and a winding hole within, one for the going and the other for the striking.
The magnificent pyramidal-shaped case with exceptionally beautiful gilt bronze mounts surmounted by a white marble urn with elaborate gilt cover cast with flowers, fruit and leaves, the urn with beaded borders and centred by a foliate wreath above two outward facing winged sphinxes, each supporting a tasselled plume on their heads, the sphinxes with tails entwined around the stem of the urn upon a shaped white marble plinth, housing the movement and dial ring which is set into an elaborately cast plaque showing a classical scene of Cupid upon a pedestal, a pair of maidens, putti and a burning athénienne brazier symbolizing The Sacrifice of Love, also known as The Sacrifice to Cupid, the plaque with shaped lower corners partly enclosing a pair of sunflowers, the rectangular white marble base with an inset pierced gilt frieze depicting a central Apollo head flanked by a foliate spray enclosing a pair of lyres, the base on scrolled lion paw feet
Paris, date circa 1785-90
Height 52.5 cm, width 31.5 cm, depth 17 cm.
This clock is almost identical to one by the Parisian clockmaker Joseph Revel, whose name and address appears on a plaque attached to an almost identical work. On it he gave the address of Palais Royal no. 118, where he was established at the Galerie Valois Palais Royal between 1787-90. These dates fit in perfectly with the case style which clearly belongs to the late Louis XVI period, in particular the references to Egyptian motifs as well as Classical Rome in combination with the overall shape.
The present work belongs to a number of ingenious eighteenth century novelty clocks, which instead of showing the time on a traditional dial have a pair of revolving rings. Others for instance featured revolving rings set within an urn or vase, which had a lid that could be removed to reveal the winding holes. The present winding system is very intricate and rare.
Beneath the dial ring is a beautiful relief depicting The Sacrifice of Love, a subject that appeared on many other works of art from Wedgwood plaques to large gilt bronze relief plaques on three secrétaires by Jean-Henri Riesener, two in the Wallace Collection, London and another in the J. Paul Getty Museum, California. Like this plaque the subject was inspired by the ancient celebration of the feast of Venus but shows a different composition with a kneeling woman with an infant who stands beneath Cupid set upon a flaming altar.
The same subject is also shown on a plaque attached to a globe clock portraying Love Triumphing over Time with a movement by the Lepaute workshop of circa 1775-80, (illustrated in Winthrop Kellogg Edey, "French Clocks in North American Collections", The Frick Collection exhibition catalogue, November 1982 - January 1983, p. 79, no. 70). While the bronzier responsible the plaques supplied to Riesener as well as the present magnificent mounts are not know, one strong contender is Francois Rémond (1747-1812) whose collaboration with Riesener is well documented and who often made use of classical compositions designed by the academic sculptor Louis-Simon Boizot.
The assertion that Rémond may have been responsible for the present bronze work is strengthened by the fact that his bronzes often included winged griffins or winged sphinxes as well as an abundance of fruit and floral swags. Furthermore the modelling of the Sphinxes' beautiful faces with their distinctively flattened noses and chin bear a close similarity with those on a pair of caryatid girandoles in the Hôtel Kinsky; likewise the treatment of the Sphinxes' hair and headdress compares to the Egyptian heads forming part of the candle branches on the same girandoles (illustrated in Charles Baulez, "Le Luminaire de la Princesse Kinsky" in "L'Estampille L'Objet d'Art", May 1991, pp. 85, 86, 88 and 89). As here, Rémond's work, from candelabra to clock cases was often of a complex design and included multi figures or elements within the same composition.