Hans Ottomeyer and Peter Pröschel, “Vergoldete Bronzen”, 1986, p. 193, pl. 3.11.6, illustrating a design from the workshop of François Vion, from an album in the Bibliothèque Doucet, for a very similar clock and p. 193, pl. 3.11.4, illustrating a similar pendule ‘au lion’ with a case by François Vion circa 1770, signed on the dial Gudin à Paris, which was made for the Ministère d’Etat and is now at the Ministry of Finance, Paris.
E. Ducamp, “Pavlosk, les Collections”, 1993, p. 178, illustrating a similar clock at Pavlovsk Palace, Saint-Petersburg. Tardy, “Les Plus Belles Pendules Françaises”, 1994, p. 17, illustrating a clock of the same model but with a patinated rather than gilt bronze lion and with a straight sided rather than splayed rectangular base, sold by Maître Ader in December 1967. Bruno Pons, “French Period Rooms, 1650-1800”, 1995, p. 231.
Jean-Dominique Augarde, “Les Ouvriers du Temps”, 1996, p. 373, pl. 273, illustrating a variant model with a movement by Meunier le Jeune.
Pierre Kjellberg, “Encyclopédie de la Pendule Française du Moyen Age au XXe Siècle”, 1997, p. 278, pl. E, illustrating an almost identical clock but with a straight sided rather than splayed rectangular base and movement by Jacques Panier, noting that other recorded clocks of the same design are signed by Baffert and Perret while another was once in the ancient collection of vicomtesse Vigier.
Elke Niehüser, “Die Französische Bronzeuhr”, 1997, p. 239, pl. 848, illustrating a clock of a comparable model.
An important Louis XVI gilt bronze pendule ‘au lion’ of eight day duration by Pierre III Le Roy, housed in a case attributed to François Vion, the white enamel dial signed PR Le Roy à Paris with Roman and Arabic numerals and a beautiful pair of pierced gilt brass hands for the hours and minutes. The movement with silk thread suspension, anchor escapement, striking on the hour and half hour on a single bell, with outside count wheel. The gilt bronze case after a design by François Vion, featuring the clock drum surmounted by a covered urn hung with a laurel leaf swag and mounted on the back of a lion facing to the left with flowing mane and serpentine tail on a splayed rectangular gilt plinth with a chequered pattern above and mounted on the frieze with a lion’s head and flanked by its pelt, on foliate bun feet
Paris, date circa 1770
Height 59 cm, width 35 cm, depth 23 cm.
This handsome clock is based on a design by François Vion (1764- circa 1800), who was one of the leading bronziers of his day and supplied pendules ‘au lion’ to the royal clockmaker Pierre III Le Roy (1717-85) as well as other important Paris clockmakers. Among other similar examples is one by Gudin à Paris which was made for the Ministère d’Etat and is now in the Ministère des Finances, Paris. We also know that another pendule ‘au lion’ was delivered to Louis Joseph, prince de Condé and was listed in an inventory of the Palais Bourbon in 1779. Another example can be found at Pavlovsk Palace, Saint-Petersburg, while a further clock with case of similar design and likewise with a movement by Pierre III Le Roy, was sold by Sotheby’s Paris, 6th July 2017, lot 115 from the collection of Madame Djahanguir Riahi. Two other similar examples, one with a movement by Jean-Gabriel Imbert, known as Imbert l’Aîné and the other with a movement by Joseph Mignolet, have previously been sold by Richard Redding Antiques Ltd.
François Vion was received as a maître in 1764. Apart from a few decorative gilt bronze accessories, such as plinths for statuettes, he appears to have specialised in clock cases which in addition to Le Roy, he supplied to Lepaute, Manière, Furet, Cronier, Poitevin, Jean-Gabriel Imbert, and many other fine clockmakers. As here, a number of these were supported by animals and in particular by a lion. A number of his cases featured classical figures such as one representing the Three Graces housing a movement by Lepaute à Paris which was made for the comtesse du Barry at Château de Fontainebleau. (Musée du Louvre, Paris). The Musée Municipal, Besançon also owns a clock housed in a case by Vion surmounted by Venus and putti after a design by E-M Falconet, while the Wrightsman Collection in the Metropolitan Museum, New York owns a biscuit porcelain figure of Cupid by Falconet placed on a gilt bronze base by Vion.
As noted above, Pierre III Le Roy’s name is associated with pendules au lion. This highly important maker was the son of Julien II Le Roy (1686-1759) and was received as a maître in July 1737. He succeeded his father’s business and like him was appointed Horloger Ordinaire du Roi by virtue of having lodgings in the Galeries du Louvre. As one of the most able clockmakers of his day, Pierre III Le Roy was the author of much research and several inventions including the bi-metallic scale (1765) though his greatest contribution to horology was his development of the marine chronometer. To this end, in 1769 he was awarded a double prize from the Académie des Sciences for having discovered the best method of measuring time at sea. Among his more famous horological feats was the great clock of the Marble Court at Château de Versailles, which was executed by Pépin 1767.
Pierre III Le Roy called upon many of the same watch and clock case makers who had supplied his father. Again, like his father, he worked for Dominique Daguerre and other marchand-merciers. At the same time, he enjoyed a strong patronage among independent connoisseurs such as the ducs de Penthièvre and de Chaulnes as well as the marquis de Béringhem. His clocks were also owned by Louis XV, the comtesse du Barry, the princes de Conti and de Ligne while today examples from his oeuvre can be seen at the Châteaux de Versailles and Beloeil as well as the Musée des Arts et Métiers and elsewhere in Paris at the Musée de l’Histoire de France and the Musée National des Techniques.