Hans Ottomeyer and Peter Pröschel, "Vergoldete Bronzen", 1986, p. 381, pl. 5.15.27, illustrating a clock of the same model with movement by Herbin à Paris. J. Ramon Colon De Carvajal, "Catalogo De Relojes Del Patrimonio Nacional", 1987, p. 119, no. 99, illustrating a clock of the same model signed on the dial Cary à Lyon in the Spanish Royal Collection. "Musée François Duesberg: Arts Décoratifs (1775-1825)", circa 1975, p. 55, illustrating a clock of the same model in the Musée François Duesberg at Mons in Belgium. Pierre Kjellberg, "Encyclopédie de la Pendule Française du Moyen Age au XXe Siècle", 1997, p. 345, pl. F, illustrating a clock of the same model with no dial signature, a patinated bronze sugar cane dial drum and base upon bun feet. Elke Niehüser, "Die Französische Bronzeuhr", 1997, p. 238, pl. 818, illustrating an almost identical clock. G. Wannenes, "Le Più Belle Pendole Francesi. Da Luigi XIV all'Impero", 1991, p. 147, illustrating a clock of the same model.
A very fine Empire gilt and patinated mantle clock known as La Nourrice Africaine or the African Nursemaid of eight day duration signed on the white enamel dial Sacré à Paris and housed in a magnificent case after a design by Louis Croutelle aîné. The dial with Roman numerals and a fine pair of blued steel Breguet-style 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 superb case with clock drum formed as a bundle of sugar canes bound with ropes which is supported on the head and held aloft in the hands of a beautiful African nursemaid with white enamel eyes, wearing a gilt feather headdress, drop earrings, arm bands and a feathered skirt below her bare top, bending forward to take the weight of the sugar cane dial drum, she supports a baby which quietly lies in a cradle slung from a tie draped around her neck, the young nursemaid stands with her right foot forward while standing on a stepped oval plinth with shaped ends, mounted on the frieze front with exotic seed pods and palm fronds centred by a shell motif, supported on four toupie feet
Paris, date circa 1810
Only a limited number of clocks of this remarkable model are known. Among them is an example signed on the dial Cary à Lyon, which is in the Royal Spanish Collection while another, formerly owned by the great collector François Duesberg, is in the Musée François Duesberg at Mons in Belgium. Added to them is another example illustrated in Ottomeyer and Pröschel op. cit, which is fitted with a movement by Jean-Pierre Herbin (maître 1788). Like other late eighteenth and early nineteenth century pendules au nègre, this magnificent clock epitomises European society's fascination with the exotic, unadulterated and untamed natural world. This was a notion 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 Europeans began to question their own corrupt society in comparison 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. In addition to books the concept of the le bon sauvage inspired both the fine and decorative arts and in particular it gave rise to a number of innovative clock cases au Nègre (with African figures) such as this or aux Indiens (with native American figures).
Within this group were a number of clock cases portraying African men at work but few, if any, portrayed women engaged in work, which makes this model particularly rare. Furthermore, it is the only known pendule au bon sauvage to dwell upon the theme of maternal or child care, which again makes it stand out. However, like other similar types of clocks the dial and movement, set within a bundle of sugar canes, is very cleverly integrated into the overall design.
The present design, featuring a young African nursemaid carrying a new-born baby, was inspired by a drawing of 1807 by Louis Croutelle the elder (1765-1829), which today is in the Cabinet des Estampes in the Paris Bibliothèque Nationale, (see D. and C. Fléchon, "La pendule au Nègre", in "Bulletin de l'Association Nationale des Collectionneurs et Amateurs d'Horlogerie Ancienne", Spring 1992, no. 63, p. 32, pl. 4). Louis Croutelle, who was born in Paris and died in the same city, was an artist of remarkable talents who was trained by Nicolas Delaunay and executed numerous illustrations for literary works as well as a series of engraved prints, counting among them the suite d'Estampes pour les comédies de Molière (1803) as well as writings by Regnard and Rousseau and such publications as La collection des Voyages imaginaires, songes, visions, et romans cabalistiques (1787-1789) by Charles-Georges-Thomas Garnier and Baron Dominique Vivant Denon's Voyage dans la Basse et la Haute Égypte (1802). In addition, Croutelle executed a number of portraits, for instance of Cardinal Berni and Friedrich II of Prussia and he also designed several clock cases. Among the latter is a design of c. 1808-9 for a clock known as 'The Faithful Housekeeper' as well as an executed clock known as La Latiere of circa 1807 featuring a young milkmaid riding a horse which is fitted with a panier housing the dial and movement (illustrated respectively in Ottomeyer and Pröschel op. cit., p. 376, pl. 5.15.7 and p. 377, pl. 5.15.10).
The present movement was made by the Parisian firm of clockmakers Sacré à Paris, who produced a number of precision clocks and watches. G. H. Baillie, in "Watchmakers and Clockmakers of the World", reprinted 1993, p. 280, notes that Sacré the younger of Paris, who was based at rue du Martrois from 1792 to 1825, produced watches and clocks à l'ivrogne, meaning that they could be wound whichever way the key was turned. Baillie, also notes that Sacré was based at rue de Malthe-Tulieries in 1812, while Tardy gives the same address but from 1812-20. In addition, Tardy cites various other addresses for the firm at rue de Harlay (1806), rue Saint-Nicaise (1815-17) and rue Saint-Honoré (1820). In addition to pendules au sauvage, Sacré's name also appears on a number of other figural clocks including one of circa 1800, which is shaped as a windmill. However, of them all the present example can be considered his most appealing.