An extremely fine and high quality Louis XV gilt bronze petit cartel d’alcove of eight day duration made by Jean II Fol, signed on the white enamel dial Fol Fils and also similarly signed on the movement. The dial with outer Arabic numerals and inner Roman numerals and a very fine pair of pierced gilt brass hands for the hours and minutes. The movement with anchor escapement, silk thread suspension, striking on the half hours and quarters on two bells with pull repeat on demand. The exquisite gilt bronze case of foliate cartouche outline surmounted by overlapping foliate scroll, the sides with foliate scrolls and flowers, with a glazed pendulum aperture beneath the dial centred by a foliate cartouche terminal
Paris, date circa 1765
Height 29 cm, width 18 cm.
This charming and unusually small cartel d’alcove boasts an extremely fine case which can be compared to another similar example with flowers and rocaille attributed to the preeminent bronzier Jean-Joseph de Saint-Germain (1719-1791), housing a movement by Etienne Le Noir (illustrated in Pierre Kjellberg, “La Pendule Française du Moyen Age au XXe Siècle”, 1997, p. 98, pl. A).
The beauty of the case is matched by the finesse of the movement which was made by the esteemed Swiss born clockmaker Jean II Fol who, as here, signed his name Fol Fils presumably to distinguish himself from his father Jean Fol who was also a clockmaker. Born in Geneva, Jean II Fol died in Paris on 2nd February 1788. Up until 1751 he worked ouvrier libre, during which time he worked for other makers notably the Lepautes of Paris. In April 1775 Fol was received as a Parisian maître horloger and such was his repute that the following month he was appointed to the venerated position of Valet de Chambre-Horloger Ordinaire du Roi, in reversion to Antoine Pelletier. At that period the role was shared by four appointed clockmakers. Fol’s duties as the royal clockmaker meant that he supervised the maintenance of clocks in the king’s apartments and every morning, whilst the monarch was dressing, he had to wind and set the watch that the king was to wear that day. Whilst on duty Fol wore a sword, dined at the same table as the king’s Valets de Chambre and entered the presence of the monarch with the First Gentlemen of the Chamber. However in 1783 Fol resigned his duties as Valet de Chambre-Horloger Ordinaire du Roi in favour of Gustave-Adolphe Adamson. In addition to the latter title, Fol is often described as being clockmaker to the King of Poland; however Jean-Dominique Augarde notes that this title was never attached to him during his lifetime.
Known to have been established at Enclos des Quinze-Vingts in 1760 and then at the Passage de Valois at the Lycée by 1788, Jean II Fol gained great repute for the quality of his watches and clocks and was often mentioned in the almanacs for his repeating watches. As a horological expert he presented a paper concerning longitude and marine clocks (Mémoire sur les longitudes ou sur les horloges marines) to the Académie des Sciences and in 1788 also presented at the Académie des Sciences a complicated five dial lyre clock made the previous year for Monsieur d’Arboulin de Richebourg, the Administrator-General of the Post Office, (illustrated in Jean-Dominique Augarde, “Les Ouvriers du Temps”, 1996, p. 34, pl 17). Again in 1788 a movement in Fol’s workshop indicating the day and the seconds was described by Gustave-Adolphe Adamson as having an ‘extraordinary escapement’. Such was Fol’s repute that his clocks and watches were acquired by the cream of society and can now be found in several major public collections including the Mathematisch-Physikalischer Salon in Dresden, the Musée du Louvre, Paris who own one of his watches and the Musée des Arts et Décoratifs, Paris who own one of his mantle clocks housed in a case attributed to Robert Osmond.