Hans Ottomeyer and Peter Pröschel, “Vergoldete Bronzen”, 1986, p. 248, pl. 4.6.13, illustrating an identical clock case with dial signed Amant à Paris, in the Residenzmuseum, Munich.
Peter Heuer and Klaus Maurice, “Europäische Pendeluhren, Dekorative Instrumente der Zeitmessung”, 1988, p. 51, illustrating an identical clock.
Elke Niehüser, “Die Französische Bronzeuhr”, 1997, p. 213, pl. 319, illustrating an identical clock.
An extremely fine Louis XVI white marble and gilt bronze mantlel clock of eight day duration signed on the white enamel dial Lepine HGER Du Roi and also signed and numbered on the movement 4115 Lepine Hre du Roi à Paris, the dial with inner and outer Arabic numerals and a fine pair of pierced gilt brass hands for the hours and minutes of which the sides of the original fleur-de-lis hour hand pointer have been cut off. The movement with anchor escapement, silk thread suspension, striking on the hour and half hour on a single bell, with outside count wheel. The magnificent case surmounted by a young Cupid holding a bow beside a quiver of arrows and rising from billowing clouds above a pair of doves as he leans across the clock dome towards a beautiful sleeping Bacchante who holds a bunch of grapes and leans on a bed of fruiting vines that surround the dial, the clock supported on a shaped rectangular marble base with rounded ends on which is a gilt bronze flaming torch and ornamented below by gilt bronze frieze mounts portraying at centre young putti playing in the style of Clodion, flanked by vine rosettes and on the ends with entwined leaf and ribbon mounts, on turned feet
Paris, date circa 1775-80
Height 34 cm, width 34 cm, depth 16 cm.
In addition to the clock in Residenzmuseum, another housed in an identical case can be found at Château de Fontainebleau. Among other clocks with identical cases is one with a movement by the esteemed clockmaker Ferdinand Berthoud, (sold by Sotheby’s Monaco, 26-27th February 1992, lot 354) as well as another signed on the dial Charles Bertrand Paris Hger de L’Academie des Sciences, which was in the Vitale collection of highly important European clocks, sold by Christie’s New York, 30th October 1996, lot 77.
The movement was made by one of the very finest French clockmakers Jean-Antoine Lépine (1720-1814), who was appointed clockmaker to both King Louis XV and Louis XVI, to whom he supplied a large number of clocks. Lépine was also patronised by leading figures of his day including the comtesse d’Artois and de Provence, many French aristocracy as well as the Spanish, British and Swedish royalty. His pieces are now in the world’s finest collections including Musée Royaux d’Art et d’Histoire, Brussels; Mathematisch-Physikalischer Salon, Dresden; the Victoria and Albert Museum, London; Musée d’Horlogerie de La Chaux-de-Fonds; Basle Museum; Musée du Louvre, Musée du Cognacq-Jay, Palais de l’Elysée, Paris as well as Château de Versailles and the Spanish, Swedish and English Royal Collections.
Born in Challex, Lépine began his horological career in nearby Geneva. In circa 1744 he travelled to Paris, where he worked as compagnon and ouvrier libre under André Caron (1697-1775), Horloger du Roi. In 1756 he married Caron’s daughter and was promptly made a partner in his father-in-law’s business. He was received as a maître in 1762 by decree, exempting him from lack of apprenticeship when he took over Caron’s business. At about the same time he was appointed the coveted position of Horloger du Roi et du Garde-Meuble de la Coronne. Until 1772 Lépine operated from rue Saint-Denis; for the next five years he was at rue des Fossés-Saint-Germain-l’Auxerrois but in 1784 he handed the business over to his son-in-law Pierre-Claude Raguet, known as Lépine (1753-1810), who had joined him in 1783.
Lépine was responsible for many technical and aesthetic horological innovations, of which the most celebrated is the ‘Lépine calibre’ which resulted in the production of the first genuinely thin watch. He was also very aware of integrating scientific excellence with aesthetic beauty and thus only used cases by the finest bronziers such as Jean-Baptiste and Robert Osmond, Etienne Martincourt and Jean-Rémy Carangeot as well as the ébénistes Balthazar Lieutaud and Nicolas Petit and also employed the services of the gilders Noël, Martin and Henry. Lépine’s attention to detail also included the dial face; as here his early dials only had Arabic numerals for the hours and minutes, which was one of Lépine’s specialities which he continued to use until about 1789 when he reverted back to the more usual combination of Roman and Arabic numerals. Another interesting aspect is that the sides of the original fleur-de-lis pointer on the hour hand have been cut off; this would have occurred during the French Revolution since the fleur-de-lis, as a symbol of France’s royal family, was removed.
JEAN-ANTOINE LEPINE (1720-1814). FRENCH
Jean-Antoine Lepine combined perfect technical quality with aesthetic design. He was appointed clockmaker to Louis XV and Louis XVI, for whom he made 20 clocks. His firm also made clocks for Napoleon, one of which is in the Palais de Compiegne, while another for the Empress Josephine is in the Mobilier National, Paris. Lepine was also patronised by the Spanish and English royality, three Lepine mantle clocks and an astro clock are housed at Buckingham Palace, London. In addition, Lepine time pieces can be found in the Victora and Albert Museum and the Guildhall, London; the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambride; the Carnegie Museum; the National Museum of Stockholm; Basel Museum; Mathematische Physikalische Salon, Dresden and Geneva Horological School.
The son of Jean Lepine, a mechanic who made music boxes for Louis XVI, Jean-Antoine was born in Gex, France. He served an apprenticeship under Decrose of Grand Sacconex, Switzerland. By 1744 Lepine was established in Paris, working for Andre Charles Caron (1697-1775).In 1756 he married Caron's daughter and was promptly made a partner. The firm of Caron et Lepine at Rue St.Denis continued until 1769, when Lepine succeeded the elder.During the 1770's he also acted as an agent for Voltaire's workshops at Ferney, near Geneva. In 1772 Lepine transferred his Parisian business to Place Dauphine, by 1778 he was operating from Quai de l’Horlogue and from 1781-87 at Rue aux Fosses. He was joined by his son in law, Claude Pierre Raguet (1753-1810), who took over the business, 1783. In 1810 the firm was sold to J. B. Chapuy, who among others employed Jacques Lepine (nephew of Jean-Antoine). The firm continued to prosper under various owner, trading under the name of its founder until 1916.
The development of watch and clock making is indebted to Lepine's technical innovations, his most notable, c. 1760 was the Lepine calibre which resulted in the production of the first genuinely thin watch. The Lepine calibre was soon accepted and developed by other French watchmakers, notably A. L. Breguet (1747-1823). However it was not adopted in England , so while the demand for "thin" watches increased, French watchmakers soon established a pre-eminence. The Lepine calibre is now a universal movement in all watches. Lepine continued to perfect the internal design of his "thin" watches so that parts were more accessible for repair and maintenance. These watches were highly prized, in 1781 he was selling them for £ 840 a piece. Lepine also introduced other innovations such as a watch that wound by a push-piece.
Lepine was also at the forefront of design, and with Breguet was one of the first to use Arabic numerals, for a period he used a combination of both Arabic and Roman figures, but by 1789 his firm had returned to Roman numeration. Lepine developed a unique decoration, surrounding the number 1 with a circle to create an aesthetic balance with the number 11; it appears that he was the only watch and clockmaker to do so The Lepine firm employed some of the finest craftsmen to create fashionable and decorative cases such as Nicolas Petit who created sumptous cases in the Louis XVI style. Thus while Lepine placed emphasis on design he and his firm also aspired toward mechanical excellence.
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