Tardy, "French Clocks - The World Over", 1981, vol. I, p. 285, illustrating an identical clock drum and surmounting putto with additional music box. Hans Ottomeyer and Peter Pröschel, "Vergoldete Bronzen", 1986, p. 123, pl. 2.8.3, illustrating a clock signed on the dial Moisy à Paris housed in an identical case by St. Germain; and on the same page pl. 2.8.4, illustrating a comparable clock with additional music box with mounts by St. Germain, signed on the dial Autran à Montelimart with identical drum and surmounting putto but with a wild boar in place of the elephant. Peter Heuer-Klaus Maurice, "European Pendulum Clocks", 1988, p. 28, pl. 27, illustrating a very similar clock signed on the dial Gudin à Paris, with identical drum, surmounting putto with additional music box and a rhinoceros facing right in place of the elephant. Klaus Maurice, "Fine Antique Clocks of the 17th to 19th Century", 1990, p. 66, pl. 52, illustrating a very similar elephant clock in the Pitti Palace, Florence, signed on the dial Beckaert à Paris, with an identical drum and surmounting putto but with the elephant facing in the opposite direction. Elke Niehüser, "Die Französische Bronzeuhr", 1997, p. 241, pl. 885, illustrating an identical clock case. Pierre Kjellberg, "Encyclopédie de la Pendule Française du Moyen Age au XXe Siècle", 1997, p. 128, pl. A, illustrating an identical clock drum and surmounting putto with additional music box, signed on the dial Molé à Paris and on the same page, pl. B, illustrating another almost identical clock again with additional music box.
A rare and important Louis XV gilt and patinated bronze Pendule 'À L'Éléphant' with magnificent case by Jean-Joseph de Saint-Germain, signed on the base S. GERMAIN, also signed on the white enamel dial Gosselin à Paris and on the backplate Gosselin à Paris No. 837, and furthermore signed and dated on the dial reverse a. n. martiniere P-naire du Roi Ca 14 Avril 1752. The enamel dial by Antoine-Nicolas Martinière with blue Roman and Arabic numerals with a very fine pair of pierced gilt brass hands for the hours and minutes, the hour hand with a fleur-de-lis pointer. The two train movement with five knopped pillars, verge escapement with silk suspension, striking on the hour on a bell, with outside count wheel. The wonderful gilt bronze drum-shaped case surrounded by flowers and foliage and surmounted by a seated putto holding a shield in his left hand and a stylised fan in his right, supported on the back of a patinated elephant facing to the right with raised trunk and a gilded girth, standing on a foliate cast rocaille scrolled base
Paris, dated 1752
Height 50 cm.
Clocks supported on the backs of elephants and other exotic beasts are the most prized works of the eighteenth century. Made in limited numbers for the elite, they still continue to be highly sought after by collectors and connoisseurs alike. The two most famous bronziers to produce Pendules 'À L'Éléphant' were Jean-Joseph de Saint-Germain (1719-91) and Jacques Caffiéri (1678-1755), the latter for instance being responsible for one of 1755 now in the Jones Collection, Victoria and Albert Museum London, featuring the elephant likewise facing right but with a lowered trunk and drum surmounted by a monkey with parasol. The present case however compares exactly with a few others by or attributed to Jean-Joseph de Saint-Germain, which in addition to those listed above includes one in the collection of the Duke of Buccleuch at Drumlanrig Castle.
As one of the most celebrated bronziers of his age and an incontestable champion of the Rococo style St. Germain produced clock cases and other works in gilt bronze for an exclusive and discriminating clientele. The son of an ébéniste Joseph de Saint-Germain (maître 1750) Jean-Joseph followed his father's profession firstly working for Claude-Joseph Desgodets (maître-ébéniste 1749) who specialised in making clock cases. It was probably this connection that prompted St. Germain to specialise in clock cases, but those made of bronze rather than veneered woods. Although he was active as a bronzier from 1742 he did not become a maître until 1748. As a passionate amateur botanist, he delighted in incorporating elements of nature within his works which in addition to elephants included rhinoceroses, boars, fantastic creatures such as dragons and figures, to naturalistically cast flowers, foliage, palm fronds, water, shells and seed pods.
The movement was made by the highly respected clockmaker Jean-Philippe Gosselin (d. 1766), who was well versed in the art, being the son of the maître horologer Jacques Gosselin (d. before 1748). Jean-Philippe was himself received as a master of the same Paris guild in August 1717 and as a mark of his standing was appointed Garde-Visiteur from 1752-53 and 1755-57. Established at rue Saint-Honoré he gained renown for his clocks, counting among them a number with musical movements. As here his movements were housed in the very finest cases, which in addition to St. Germain were made by A. Foullet and J. Dumont. Examples of his work can be seen today in the Metropolitan Museum, New York as well as at Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire.
The whole clock is perfectly complemented by the very fine quality dial. This was made by the renowned enamellist and inventor Antoine-Nicolas Martinière (1706-84), who was the first person to create a complete single enamel clock dial. Prior to 1740 and due to the fragile and volatile nature of enamel, complete enamelled dials had been restricted to watches. By the late seventeenth century clock dials featured separate enamel plaques to display the hours, then followed an attempt to create complete dials out of 13 or 25 individual pieces which were fitted together to form a seemingly smooth surface. All this was to change, thanks to Martinière's dramatic technical advances. His unprecedented innovation is best summed up in his own words, which appeared in 1740 in the Mercure de France. In his Lettre écrite de Paris à un horloger de Province sur les Cadrans d'Email, Martinière wrote "You ask me, Sir, to find out from the Porcelain Manufacturers if they could make you a Clock Dial one foot in diameter, because you tell me that you know it is impossible to make any of this size all in enamel, like Watch Dials. It is true that until recently this was impossible in the City, and even at Court: here is an example. The King ordered a Clock, and H. M. wished that the Dial be all of one piece, in enamel, and 14 inches in diameter. The one who received the order could only reply that he would attempt to carry it out, not that he would succeed. The Sr Martinière, Enameller, in the rue Dauphine, undertook this task, and succeeded so well in all respects, that he had the honour of presenting it himself to His Majesty, who was agreeably surprised, and gave him signs of satisfaction with so much kindness that he returned to Paris, enchanted with so happy a success, and resolved to carry out new studies in order to advance as much in his Art as would be possible..." It was probably at this time that Louis XV granted Martinière a pension and the title of Emailleur et Pensioneur du Roi. The king was particularly interested in horology and was keen to reward certain craftsmen of outstanding talent, so in addition to Martinière his Royal Treasury granted pensions to a select number of clockmakers such as J. and P. III Le Roy, F. Berthoud, J. V Martinot and P. Millot. In addition to Gosselin, Martinière supplied enamel dials to other esteemed clockmakers including Baillon, Bailly, Lepaute and Julien Le Roy of which there is an example in the Waddesdon Manor Collection, Buckinghamshire. Other examples of his enamelled work can be found in the Wallace Collection, London, as well as the Musée de Château de Versailles and the J. Paul Getty Museum, California.