Hans Ottomeyer and Peter Pröschel, “Vergoldete Bronzen”, 1986, p. 349, pl. 5.6.5, illustrating an identical clock by Pierre-François Feuchère.
Elke Niehüser, “Die Französische Bronzeuhr”, 1997, p. 216, pl. 382, illustrating a clock of the same model.
A very fine Empire gilt bronze mantel clock of eight day duration signed on the white enamel dial Chatourel à Paris and housed in a magnificent case attributed to Pierre-François Feuchère. The dial with Roman hour numerals and indications for the minutes with a fine pair of Breguet style blued steel hands for the hours and minutes. The movement with anchor escapement, silk thread suspension, striking on the hour and half hour on a single bell, with outside count wheel. The case representing Hippocrates refusing the gifts of Artaxerxes, with the clock dial and serpent bezel set into a rectangular plinth covered by a cloth and surmounted by standing two female attendants, to the right is the Greek physician Hippocrates who, having arisen from his chair, stands facing the viewer with his right hand outstretched across the dial plinth as if denying the gifts offered by two ambassadors of the Persian King Artaxerxes on the left hand side of the clock plinth, both men with long beards offer gifts, the nearest ambassador kneels emptying a casket full of coins that spill out onto the floor while the other stands behind him holding out an upturned casket in his left hand and a sheathed sword in the other. The figures and clock plinth upon a stepped rectangular base centred by a cast frieze portraying another rendition of the event with Hippocrates and his attendants to the left and the Persian ambassadors to the right, the base with carrying handles to either side set upon lion paw feet
Paris, date circa 1810
Height 64 cm, width 53 cm, depth 27 cm.
The subject for this imposing clock was inspired by a painting of 1792 by Anne-Louis de Roussy-Trioson Girodet (1767-1824) titled Hippocrate refusant les présents d’Artaxerxès (Musée d’Histoire de la Médecine, Paris). Girodet’s painting portrays Hippocrates, the Greek physician, refusing the gifts of Artaxerxes King of Persia. During Hippocrates’s lifetime a terrible plague struck Persia, the historic enemy of the Greeks. Knowing that Hippocrates was the most brilliant physician in the world, Artaxerxes sent his ambassadors to ask for his help. Here we see the ambassadors offering Hippocrates all the silver and gold he could possibly want, in return for his aid. However, the Greek physician refused them, maintaining that he already had enough food, clothing, shelter and everything else needed for life and would not help any who were enemies of Greece. Girodet’s painting portrays Hippocrates seated to the centre left and the Persian ambassadors kneeling to the right of the composition. Thus, while here the figures are seen facing the opposite directions, the poses, especially those of the ambassadors remain the same albeit in reverse; this suggests that the design for the clock was taken from a print after the original oil. Furthermore, other details remain true to the original painting such as the envoys’ hairstyles, dress and also the upturned caskets of money and coins that similarly spill onto the floor.
Given its quality and similarity to other clocks by Pierre-François Feuchère (1737-1823), this case can also be attributed to this master Parisian bronzier. Among those known to be by Feuchère was a model for the same clock case, titled Hypocrate refusant les présens d’Artaxerces which was included in the sale of bronzes from the Feuchère et Fossey workshop, 12th December 1831 lot 78. As the head of the one of the largest firms of Parisian bronziers, Feuchère’s workshop specialised in creating luxury gilt bronzes during the late eighteenth and early years of the nineteenth century. Recognising his talent, in 1807 the local governor described Feuchère’s business as one of the most important in Paris and gave it a grant of 100,000 francs. Like Pierre-Philippe Thomire, Pierre-François Feuchère made and supplied important pieces to Napoleon and his Imperial family as well as members from the German, Russian, and Spanish courts. Received as a maître ciseleur-doreur in 1763, Pierre-François was the son of Pierre Feuchère who had been attached to the king’s stables where he made gilt bronzes and other works for the royal carriages and coaches. In turn Pierre-François was employed by the Garde-Meuble to execute many works for the royal châteaux. In 1784 he was joined by his own son Lucien-François (fl. 1784-1824), who subsequently became a director of the business. He worked alongside his father at their Paris workshop in rue Notre Dame de Nazareth and helped propel the family business to rival the very best of the Parisian bronze manufacturers. In 1824, the year after Pierre-François’s death, Lucien-François along with his own son Armand (b. 1797 d. after 1860) and son-in-law, André-Julien Fossey joined together to begin a thriving concern known as Feuchères et Fossey.
In addition to gilt bronze decorations for ceremonial carriages, the firm made a number of bronzes to furnish the Châteaux at Compiègne and Meudon and the Tuileries, counting among them quantities of light fittings as well as girandoles, clock cases and a fireplace for the Tuileries as well as other pieces for the duchesse de Berry’s apartments. Orders included bronze fittings for the Imperial children’s apartments as well as for the Grand Salon and for the ballroom in 1812-13. Feuchère also undertook the restoration of all the gilded carvings in the Grand apartments and chapel at Versailles. Other commissions included the supply of light fittings, ornate furniture and various bronzes for Tsar Paul I. Feuchère also supplied the Spanish court with bronzes for carriages, and other works including two equestrian statues for King Charles IV. In addition, Feuchère supplied candelabra, wall lights and other fittings for Ludwig XVIII’s brother. In 1819 the firm further distinguished itself at the Exposition Industrie, where it was awarded a silver medal. On presenting his prize the king specifically endorsed his appreciation of the magnificent display.
The clock movement was made by the firm of Chatourel à Paris. Although little is known of this French firm, it was obviously of high standing, counting among other pieces made by them a white marble portico mantel clock which is in the British Royal Collection. Chatourel, who made movements for other Empire figural clocks, was by 1812 based at rue du Four Saint-Honoré. Later, in 1840, a Paris maker of the same name was established at rue Saint-Avoye and from 1850 to at least 1859 at rue de Temple.