Hans Ottomeyer and Peter Pröschel, “Vergoldete Bronzen”, 1986, p. 246, pl. 4.6.6., illustrating either this clock or an identical example, similarly signed of the dial. And p. 246, pl. 4.6.7, illustrating a marble statuette of Fidelity Crowning Love attributed to Etienne-Maurice Falconet in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. Elke Niehüser, “French Bronze Clocks”, 1999, p. 208, pl. 255, illustrating the latter clock.
A very beautiful and fine quality Louis XVI gilt bronze mantel clock of eight day duration signed on the white enamel dial Le Faucheur Hger du Roy, housed in a case after a model attributed to Etienne-Maurice Falconet. The dial with outer black Roman and Arabic numerals and inner red numerals for the calendar indications (1-9 as consecutive numbers and then alternate odd numerals from 11-31), with a very fine pair of gilt brass hands for the hours and minutes and a blued steel hand for the 31 days of the month. The movement with silk thread suspension, anchor escapement, striking on the hour and half hour on a single bell, with outside count wheel. The case portraying Fidelity crowning Love showing the female personification of Fidelity standing on clouds to the right of the clock dial and its short columnal plinth. She is scantily dressed in a classical robe and holds up in her right hand a floral crown above the head of a young man personifying Love who wears a lion’s pelt around his loins while a dog, a symbol of Fidelity, sits at his feet. He stands to the left of the dial at a slightly lower level to Fidelity, holding out his hands toward her, in between which are a pair of love birds. The figures on a shaped base with a frieze directly below the dial showing winged putti playing and holding a floral swag, in the style of Clodion, the whole on outer square gadrooned feet and inner foliate-wrapped feet
Paris, date circa 1780
Height 45 cm.
The case model for this beautiful clock, fitted with a movement by the royal clockmaker Lefaucheur, is based on marble statuettes attributed to the sculptor Etienne-Maurice Falconet (1716-91), one of which is in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London while another is in the Frick Collection, New York. The latter marbles however show the figures in reverse positions with Fidelity standing to the left and Love to the right. In addition, both the Falconet figures are nude and are in slightly different poses. Nevertheless, the similarity of the composition, combined with the presence of the dog remain the same. The marble statuettes compare closely to a group of small scale sculptures from Falconet’s workshop, made during the 1750s and early 60s. Some were reproduced in biscuit porcelain at the newly founded Sèvres Factory, where he served as Director from 1757-66 and were reduced versions of his own Salon exhibits of which his Pygmalion et Galathée (Musée du Louvre) was singled out by the critic Denis Diderot. Falconet’s statuettes were also reproduced as bronzes and similarly inspired a number of clock cases including one representing Les Trois Grâces (of which the original marble is in the Musée du Louvre).
Falconet, who was originally apprenticed to a carpenter, spent his leisure hours modelling clay figures. These attracted the attention of the sculptor, Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne (1710-74), who made him his pupil. Making rapid progress he was accepted into the Académie in1744 and then the following year made his debut with Milon de Crotone. Working in a restrained Rococo style combined with classical elements, Falconet showed a preference for an intimate scale, gaining acclaim for his graceful female nudes somewhat akin to a type portrayed by the leading Rococo painter François Boucher (1703-70). His supreme talents made him a favourite of Louis XV’s mistress Madame de Pompadour, for whom he modelled, among others, his seated Cupid, L’Amour Menaçant (Musée du Louvre).
In 1766, on Diderot’s recommendation, Falconet was invited by Catherine the Great to Saint Petersburg to execute a colossal equestrian bronze statue of Peter the Great. Considered his masterpiece, this heroic bronze was very different from previous pieces, in which the huge horse was represented with its forelegs raised derived from a type introduced by Bernini. During his years in Saint Petersburg, 1766-78, he devoted much of his enforced leisure time (due to local difficulties) to writing. In 1783, having returned to Paris he suffered a stroke and thereafter ceased sculpture but continued to write. In addition to work for Sèvres, Falconet provided models for elaborate silver centrepieces and salts. His only other large-scale commission, executed before going to Russia, was a series of eight statues for the church of St Roch, though all but one were destroyed during the Revolution.
The maker of the clock’s movement was the royal clockmaker Lefaucheur. This eminent Parisian concern was firstly run by Alexandre Lefaucheur (d. after 1772) and then by his son Jean-Ignace Lefaucheur (1734-1808). Alexandre, who was received as a maître in 1729, was in 1745 appointed Valet de Chambre-Horloger Ordinaire du Roi and then five years later became Gouverneur du Grand Horloge du Palais. By 1730 he was established at rue de la Lanterne; seven years later he was working from rue de la Verrerie, by 1739 at pont-au-Change and then from at least 1762 at Quai de l’Horloge du Palais at Au Méridien, where he worked with his son and successor Jean-Ignace Lefaucheur. The latter did not apply to be a maître but following his father, in 1762 he was appointed Valet de Chambre-Horloger Ordinaire du Roi as well as Gouverneur du Grand Horloge du Palais and was placed in charge of both in 1773. In 1777 Louis XVI awarded him an allowance from the privy purse while among other of his clients was the marquis de Pange who was a passionate clock collector and owned, among other things, along-case clock by Ferdinand Berthoud, Balthazar Lieutaud, and Philippe Caffieri now at Château de Versailles.
An unusual feature of this clock are the calendar markings on the dial. The ring shows all of the numerals from 1 to 9 but only the odd numbers between 11 and 31 and semi-circular rings around the two winding holes at 4 and 8 o’clock.