Geoffrey de Bellaigue, “The James A. de Rothschild Collection at Waddesdon Manor”, 1974, vol. I, p. 104-7, no. 17, illustrating and describing a very similar clock with a gilt bronze mounted ebony base, signed on the dial Julien Le Roy. Jean-Dominique Augarde, “Les Ouvriers du Temps”, 1996, p. 90, pl. 54, illustrating a very similar clock of circa 1758-60, signed on the dial Le Roy Fils aux Galleries du Louvre housed in a gilt bronze case with a plain stepped gilt bronze base by Edme Roy, formerly owned by the eighteenth century court financier Nicolas Beaujon, now in the Musée de l’Histoire de France, Paris. Peter Hughes, “The Wallace Collection Catalogue of Furniture”, 1996, vol. I, no. 99 (F267), pp. 440-44, illustrating and describing a very similar clock of circa 1768, with movement as here by Ferdinand Berthoud and gilt bronze probably by Edme Roy and an ebony base by Joseph Baumhauer. Elke Niehüser, “Die Französische Bronzeuhr”, 1997, p. 39, pl. 45, illustrating a very similar clock, the movement by Julien Le Roy housed in a gilt bronze case by Edme Roy on a gilt bronze and marble base. And p. 219, pl. 437, illustrating another version of the model on a different base. Pierre Kjellberg, “Encyclopédie de la Pendule Française du Moyen Age au XXe Siècle”, 1997, p. 263, pl. B, illustrating a similar Louis XVI gilt bronze and marble clock with movement by Balthazar, with reference to another similar clock at Château de Fontainebleau.
An important and high quality Louis XVI gilt bronze and ebony Pendule ‘à la Geoffrin’ of eight day duration by the esteemed clockmaker Ferdinand Berthoud housed in an extremely fine case attributed to the fondeur Edme Roy after a model by Laurent Guiard, with ebony base by the renowned ébéniste Balthazar Lieutaud, signed on the white enamel dial and on the movement Ferdinand Berthoud and also stamped three times B. Lieutaud on the ebony base. The dial with outer Arabic minute numerals and inner Roman hour numerals and a very fine pair of pierced gilt brass hands, the hour hand with a fleur de lis pointer. The twin barrel 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 with dial drum housed within a pedestal with an arched top surmounted by ribbon-tied oak leafs flanked by pilasters on acanthus scrolls, to the left of the pedestal is a stool on which sits a reclining classical maiden symbolising ‘The Employment of Time’ wearing a classical dress with hem chased with laurel leaves, she reads from a book on her lap while resting her left elbow on the pedestal, with a scrolled parchment below the stool, the whole upon a rectangular dais with Vitruvian scroll border upon a rectangular ebony base with a gilt bronze entrelac frieze on gilt bronze bun feet
Paris, date circa 1770
Height 51 cm, width 69 cm, depth 29 cm.
The pendule ‘à la Geoffrin’ is named after Madame Marie Thérèse Geoffrin (1699-1777), whose salon on the rue Saint-Honoré was one of the intellectual centres of Paris. Until the publication of Christian Baulez’s article “La Pendule à la Geoffrin Un Modèle Succès’, in “L’Objet d’Art/L’Estampille”, April 1989”, the origins of this enduringly popular model representing L’emploi du temps had not been fully researched. Previously it was thought that the first examples were two supplied in 1758 by the marchand-mercier Lazare Duvaux for the duc de Bourgogne and the comte du Luc (both with movements by Le Roy). Baulez however argued that the first version dated to 1754 and was owned by Madame Geoffrin, which was described as ‘représentant l’Emploi du Temps….l’original de toutes celles qui ont été faites sur ce modèle’. Madame Geoffrin’s notebooks referred to it as ‘ma pendule de Guyard’, which Baulez identified as the sculptor Laurent Guiard (1723-88) who was celebrated after exhibiting a model for an equestrian statue of Louis XV at Versailles in January 1754, shortly before making the model for Madame Geoffrin’s first clock and before his departure to Rome in September of that year. In all probability that was the same clock, housing a movement by Musson which Madame Geoffrin’s bequeathed in her will of February 1777 to Simon-Charles Boutin. She also commissioned another example in 1768 housing a movement by Musson, which she presented to the philosopher Denis Diderot (now in the Musée du Breuil de Saint-Germain at Langres). Baulez also proposed that the female figure representing ‘The Employment of Time’ might have been inspired by Nattier’s portrait of Madame Geoffrin as ‘Study’, dated 1738.
In addition to Denis Diderot, other members of Madame Geoffrin’s circle to own such clocks included the banker Jean-Joseph de Laborde, the financier Nicolas Beaujon (illustrated in Augarde, op.cit. p. 90) and the duc de la Vrillière. The duc de Choiseul also owned a similar model (seen in a miniature by van Blarenberghe on the Choiseul gold box, circa 1770-71, showing the cabinet octagone in the hôtel de Choiseul in Paris.) while another version was sold in the Blondel de Gagny sale (Paris December 1776-January 1777). The great English novelist and politician Horace Walpole also owned a model (housing a movement by Julien Le Roy) at Strawberry Hill, which he bought before 1774 and probably circa 1766 for £50; seen in a watercolour by John Carter showing the Refectory at Strawberry Hill (illustrated in Bellaigue, op.cit. p. 106), it was more recently sold at Christie’s London, 23rd June 1999, lot 120.
In February 1802 the Earl of Yarmouth, the future 3rd Marquess of Hertford bought another example formerly owned by the Countess of Holderness sale, Holderness House, Park Lane, London. That clock then passed down through the Hertford/Wallace family and remains in the Wallace Collection, London. As here the movement was made by Ferdinand Berthoud; it has a similar ebony base made by Joseph Baumhauer (d.1772) and as Peter Hughes notes in his comprehensive catalogue, the patinated (as opposed to gilt bronze) figure and gilt bronze case was probably cast by Edme Roy. Interestingly the springs are inscribed with the name of the spring maker Buzot and the date ‘Octobre 1768’, enabling a precise dating.
Ferdinand Berthoud (1727-1807), together with Julien Le Roy (1686-1759) were the main and most important clockmakers associated with this elegant clock, though other eighteenth century clockmakers used this case model including Charles Bertrand, Le Nepveu, Moisy, Musson, Martin and Gilles l’Ainé (such as one owned by Charles III of Spain, in the Spanish Royal Collection). The fact that Ferdinand Berthoud made the present clock’s movement certainly adds to its importance since he was one of the greatest makers of his day whose inventions, innovations and writings significantly advanced the quest for precision timekeeping. Born in Plancemont, Switzerland, the son of an architect and judiciary, in 1741 Berthoud began a three-year apprenticeship as a clockmaker under his brother, Jean-Henri. He subsequently went to Paris, where it is thought he studied under Julien Le Roy. Even before he was received as a maître in 1754, Berthoud had established repute; in 1752 when aged 25 he won great acclaim when he presented one of his clocks with a perpetual calendar and also indicating mean and solar time at the Académie des Sciences. Two years later he made his first marine chronometer (sent for trial in 1761) and in 1764 was appointed a member of the Royal Society, London and Horloger Mécanicien de Sa Majesté et de la Marine ayant l’inspection de la construction des Horloges Marines. The position was of considerable importance especially at a time when the race to find longitude was the social and political talk of Europe. From 1766 Berthoud was put in charge of designing all timepieces used on board the French Royal Fleet. He was a member of several important committees including a commission to establish a Royal Clock Factory in Paris (1786), a juror responsible for deciding questions concerning the new time system (1793) and a member of the Temporary Commission for the Arts (1793). He also became a member of the Institute (1795) and was appointed a Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur in 1804.
Berthoud not only made numerous complex and quality pieces but also wrote over 4000 pages on the subject. He was a great innovator whose most notable inventions included the bimetallic compensating balance and the detent escapement. His clocks and watches have rightly been described at the cutting edge of horological invention. His work is prized by major private collectors and museum curators including those at the Metropolitan Museum and Frick Collection, New York and at the Conservatoire des Arts et Métiers and Mobilier National, Paris. In addition to the Wallace Collection, London, the Nationalmuseet Stockholm and the Mathematische Physikalischer Salon, Dresden also represent his oeuvre.
In his commentary on the Wallace Collection clock, Peter Hughes notes that Charles Baulez suggests that all models of the pendule à la Geoffrin housing movements by Berthoud were probably cast by the fondeur Edme Roy (maître 1745, fl until after 1786) and thus one can assume that he was also responsible for casting the present high quality case. According to the inventory drawn up after the death of Edme Roy’s wife on 19th September 1764, there were two examples of this case in his workshop, one being a master model. The inventory also shows that Roy worked extensively for Berthoud who is recorded as owing him 3,286 livres. Although the case is not signed the ebony base is stamped with the mark of the Balthazar Lieutaud (b. circa 1720 d. 1780), who with Joseph Baumhauer was the main ébéniste associated with this case model. Lieutaud, who was received as a maître-ébéniste in 1749, was the son of the ébéniste Charles Lieutaud and grandson of François Lieutaud, an ébéniste from Marseilles. Regarded as one of the most important cabinetmakers to specialise in production of clock cases he collaborated with Edme Roy and other leading bronziers such as Philippe Caffiéri and Charles Grimpelle. He also supplied many of the finest clockmakers of the period, counting among them Ferdinand Berthoud, Robert Robin, Julien Le Roy, Lepaute, Lory and Bourdier. Lieutaud’s earlier cases followed the curvaceous lines of the Rococo but from about 1765 they exhibited all the features of the fashionable Neo-classical style. By 1750 he was installed in the clockmakers’ district at rue de la Pelleterie on the Île de la Cité, and then moved to the nearby rue d’Enfer, 1772. After his death, his wife, Nicole née Godard (1721-1800), continued the atelier until the mid 1780’s when she sold the majority of stock to Ferdinand Berthoud. Certainly the expertise of Berthoud, Balthazar Lieutaud and the attribution to Edme Roy combined with the knowledge that this particular clock model was owned by so many connoisseurs of the arts, all contribute to the clock’s intrinsic importance. However, its beauty and quality speaks for itself.