Hans Ottomeyer and Peter Pröschel, “Vergoldete Bronzen”, 1986, p. 370, pl. 5.13.15, illustrating a gilt bronze clock case of the same design, noted to be by Claude Galle and signed on the dial Griebel rue Vivienne in a Munich private collection.
Tardy, “Les Plus Belles Pendules Françaises”, 1994, p. 271, illustrating a clock of an identical design in the British Embassy in Paris.
Elke Niehüser, “Die Französische Bronzeuhr”, 1997, p. 216, pl. 386, illustrating an almost identical clock.
Jean-Nerée Ronfort and Jean-Dominique Augarde, “A l’Ombre de Pauline La Résidence de l’Ambassadeur de Grande-Bretagne à Paris”, 2001, p. 79, pl. 69, illustrating a clock of the same model, seen in its present position above the fireplace in the Bibliothèque Duff-Cooper in the British Embassy, Paris.
Jean-Dominique Augarde, “Une nouvelle vision du bronze et de bronziers sous le Directoire et l’Empire”, in “L’Estampille l’objet d’art”, no. 398, January 2005, p. 85, pl. 34, illustrating the clock of the same model in the British Embassy Paris which Augarde notes as being by Etienne Blavet.
An extremely fine Directoire gilt and patinated bronze and rouge griotte marble mantel clock of eight day duration by Pierre-Francois-Gaston Jolly, known as Gaston Jolly, signed on the white enamel dial within a ribbon plaque Gaston Jolly à Paris, housed in a superb case attributed to Etienne Blavet representing the mythological story of Hippolytus and Theseus. The white enamel dial with Roman hour and outer Arabic minute numerals marked 15/30/45/60 and an inner Republican calendar ring for the 30 days of the month, with blued steel Breguet style hands for the hours and minutes and a blued steel pointer for the calendar indications. 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 modelled by Etienne Blavet and almost certainly made by him, inspired by the painting Phèdre et Hippolyte by Pierre-Narcisse Guérin, showing the patinated bronze figure of Hippolytus standing to the left, his gilt bronze dog at his feet, wearing an animal pelt over his left shoulder, a bow in his right hand while holding out his other toward the patinated bronze figure of his father Theseus who sits in a gilt bronze chair while holding a sword in his right hand. Theseus’s chair surmounting the clock dial set within a stepped squared plinth, flanked on the left side by an outward facing winged monopodia lion, the figures and dog set upon a rectangular rouge griotte plinth set with a gilt bronze mounted frieze flanked by half-moon chariot wheels, the frieze depicting Hippolytus’s fate, when having fled away upon his horse drawn chariot along the shore, a sea monster arises out of the water and frightens his horses causing the chariot to overturn and Hippolytus’s death, the marble plinth on gilt bun feet on a plain rectangular rouge griotte marble base
Paris, date circa 1802-5
Height 54 cm, width 54 cm, depth 18 cm.
The subject for this clock case was inspired by the painting Phèdre et Hippolyte by Baron Pierre-Narcisse Guérin (1774-1833), which was exhibited at the Paris Salon in 1802 and is now in the Musée des Beaux Arts d’Orlèans. Although the latter included Hippolytus’s second wife Phaedra, here only Theseus and Hippolytus are shown. According to myth, Hippolytus (Theseus’s son by his first wife Antiope), was devoted to Diana the goddess of hunting. In so doing, he failed to worship other gods especially Venus goddess of love. In revenge the latter caused Phaedra, Theseus’s second wife, to fall in love with young Hippolytus but because the latter rejected her advances, Phaedra wrote a letter accusing him of trying to rape her. As in Guérin’s painting, the clock case portrays Hippolytus holding a bow and attended by a dog, just like the goddess of hunting. The scene portrays that moment after Theseus has read his wife’s letter and enraged, he can barely look at his son. In turn the latter holds up his hand as if to silence his father’s accusations. Subsequently Theseus chases his son away and begs Neptune, god of the sea to punish him which the latter did by sending a sea monster to frighten Hippolytus’s horses. As noted above, this concluding part of the story is then portrayed on the frieze below the clock dial. Guérin’s painting also includes Phaedra seated beside her husband. Those two figures as well as that of Hippolytus are more faithfully reproduced in a slightly later Empire clock case made by the bronzier Choiselat-Gallien (Patrimonio National, Madrid; illustrated in Jean-Dominique Augarde, “Les Ouvriers du Temps”, 1996, p. 201).
A number of clocks of the same model as here have been identified. Most of them are set on a rouge griotte or verde antico marble base while the majority are executed in a combination of gilt and patinated bronze, as here. Among them are examples in Florence, both in the Palazzo Pitti as well as in the Ruspoli-Talleyrand Collection. Another example, made purely of gilt bronze on a slightly taller base, has been exhibited at the Festetics Palace Museum in Keszthely, Hungary. Another clock of the exact same model as here but with gilt rather than patinated bronze figures was owned by Napoleon Bonaparte’s sister Princess Pauline Borghèse (1780-1825) which she housed at her Paris residence at Hôtel Borghèse. The latter was to become the British Embassy after it and all the Princess’s art collection was purchased in 1814 by the Duke of Wellington for the British government. The inventory drawn up in 1814 lists the comparative clock as being on the first floor in the Salon bleu, chamber à coucher. In his article “Une nouvelle vision du bronze et de bronziers sous le Directoire et l’Empire”, Jean-Dominique Augarde identifies the maker of Princess Pauline Borghèse’s clock as Etienne Blavet and because of that, the present model can be confidently attributed to the same modeller and bronzier. Before describing Blavet in more detail, it should be noted that in Ottomeyer and Pröschel op.cit., the comparative clock signed Griebel rue Vivienne is said to be Claude Galle (1759-1815), who interestingly worked from rue Vivienne.
Etienne Blavet was one of many very gifted sculptors and fondeurs working in Paris during the latter years of the eighteenth century and early years of the next. Until recently his importance has been largely overlooked but thanks to J-D Augarde’s article op.cit., details of his career have now come to light. Blavet, who was born in 1751 at Melun to the south east of Paris, begun his apprenticeship under Antoine Lejeune in January 1766 and was later received as a maître fondeur in June 1772. His oeuvre included small scale sculptural bronzes, chenets and other bronze furnishings as well as clock cases based on the ancient myths, literature, history or allegories. In addition to working for bronziers such as Jean-Rémy Carrangeot, he supplied clock cases to the leading Paris clockmakers including Louis-Charles Balthazar, Jacques-Thomas Bréant and Gaston Jolly. Among Blavet’s clock cases is one known as “Les Premiers Pas de l‘Enfrance” (Musée des Beaux-Arts, Rouen) while another featuring Bacchus seducing Erigone houses a movement by Devillaine. Another of Blavet’s clock cases portrays Achilles vowing to avenge the death of Patroclus, examples of which were owned by Louis King of Holland, maréchal Soult, the duc de Dalmatie and général Duroc. Among other roles Blavet assisted in the financial affairs of his fellow bronziers Etienne-Louis Forestier and Claude Galle and acted as an expert in drawing up inventories for Jean-Andre Reiche and Madame Matelin.
An interesting aspect of our clock is the presence of a Republican calendar dial which suggests that it was one of the earliest clocks of this model. The movement itself was made by Pierre-Francois-Gaston Jolly, better known as Gaston Jolly (d. 1824) who was one of the leading Parisian clockmakers during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. He was received into the Parisian guild of maître horlogers on 6th May 1784 and during his illustrious career enjoyed the patronage of Bernard-Charles-Louis-Victor marquis de Lostanges-Beduer as well as Charles-Philibert-Marie-Gaston de Lévis, comte de Mirepoix’s wife. In keeping with the current tastes his early clocks were often housed in the finest cases of which some were supplied by the master bronziers Robert and Jean-Baptiste Osmond. Gaston Jolly also made a number of watches, one of which has an elaborate enamel case painted with a scene from Jacques Rousseau’s opera Colin and Colette and is housed in the Petit Palais in Paris. When he became a maître in 1784, Gaston Jolly was established at rue des Arcis and then at rue Michel le Compte (later renamed rue Michel le Pelletier) before he moved to boulevard Poisonnière, where he died in late 1824. He married Marie-Catherine Baudin who died in 1784 shortly after their wedding and by whom he had one son, also named Pierre-Francois-Gaston Jolly. The latter followed his father’s profession as a clockmaker and during the early years of the nineteenth century was established at rue du Pavée Saint-Sauveur, where his own wife Marie-Madeleine-Rose died in late 1812 or January 1813.