Baron and Baronne Lopez de Tarragoya, Paris. Their sale Palais Galliéra, Paris, 15th June 1971, lot 101. Didier Aaron, Paris, 1999.
Cedric Jagger, “Royal Clocks”, 1983, p. 126, pls. 169 and 170, illustrating two very similar regulators surmounted by Father Time, both with cases by Charles Cressent, one of which is as here inlaid with bois de violette in addition to mahogany and again as here has a movement by Julien Le Roy and is signed on the dial ‘Inventé en 1736 par Julien Le Roy’. Alexandre Pradère, “French Furniture Makers”, 1989, p. 135, pl. 96, illustrating a similar regulator with case by Charles Cressent in the British Royal Collection. Olivier Dacade, “Musée des Arts Décoratifs de Lyon: Pendules”, 1995, pl. 2, illustrating a comparable example in the Musée des Arts Décoratifs de Lyon. Jean-Dominique Augarde, “Les Ouvriers du Temps”, 1996, p. 330, pl. 249, illustrating the comparable Cressent regulator case with movement by Nicolas Gourdain in the Musée des Arts Décoratifs de Lyon. Alexandre Pradère, “Charles Cressent Sculpteur, Ebéniste du Régent”, 2003, p. 304 (cat. 263), illustrating this clock as well as three others for comparison, which include the one in the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Lyon (cat. 260), one with Partridge London 1991 (cat. 261 which is also has a movement by Julien Le Roy and is signed in the same ways as this example) and another from the collection of Marcel Bissey, now in a private collection (cat. 262), and also pp. 194-195 and 304-305 for comparison.
A very important and rare Louis XV gilt bronze mounted bois satiné and bois de violette parquetry grande sonnerie and quarter striking regulator featuring a magnificent and high quality case by the supreme ébéniste Charles Cressent and movement by the equally celebrated master clockmaker Julien Le Roy, signed on the dial Inventé en 1736 par Julien Le Roy de la Société des Arts and further signed on the movement Julien Le Roy and also bearing a label verso numbered 5057 987789. The silvered dial ring with Roman and Arabic numerals centred by an elaborately engraved gilt brass circular mask to include an arrow to indicate the equation of time within an aperture at 6 o’clock, marked ‘Equation de l’Horloge’, and below that a calendar aperture marked ‘Jours des Mois’, showing the names of the month and appropriate days for each, with an indicator from below, the main dial with a very fine pair of pierced gilt brass hands for the hours and minutes and a blued steel pointer for the sweep centre seconds, with a lever to the left of the dial marked ‘silence’ and ‘sonne’ and another small lever below that to regulate the strike. The high quality weight driven movement with a very unusual Chevalier de Béthune escapement and a seven-rod steel and brass compensated pendulum, with grande sonnerie and quarter strike on three bells.
The sumptuous violin-shaped case ornamented overall with rocaille cartouches and foliate gadroons surmounted by an asymmetrical scallop shell and foliate finial above foliate and rose festoons with further elaborate rocaille mounts around the bezel, the pendulum door headed by a beautiful female mask, who almost certainly represents Venus, flanked by foliate angle mounts above a rocaille shell and foliate scrolling cartouche mount, incorporating a pair of snakes, adorning the glazed pendulum aperture with a further foliate rocaille mount to the splayed base
Paris, date circa 1736-40
Height 208.5 cm, width 57.5 cm, depth 23 cm.
This magnificent regulator combines the esteemed talents of two of history’s great masters namely the sculpteur and ébéniste Charles Cressent (1685-1768) who created the sumptuous case and the royal clockmaker Julien Le Roy (1686-1759) who was responsible for its movement. One cannot over stress the unique beauty of the clock’s case, which being of the highest quality integrates a number of allegorical references to Venus, mythological goddess of love. According to legend Venus was born from the sea and floated ashore on a scallop shell borne by dolphins, as portrayed in Botticelli’s famous painting “The Birth of Venus” (Uffizi Gallery, Florence). When she stepped on shore, all the shells that she trod on turned to roses. Thus at the top of the clock we see a scalloped shell motif, below which are roses, both being attributes of Venus.
Likewise the beautiful mask head above the pendulum door is almost certainly that of Venus, especially as her headdress reflects the ripples of the waves as well as the ridges on a scallop shell. The scallop features again above the pendulum aperture and forms part of the scrolling gilt bronze cartouche, which also integrates a pair of snakes to symbolise the eternity of time. Finally at the base of the clock is yet another wonderful mount that includes a scallop shell.
Although Cressent only made a limited number of regulator cases, nevertheless when in 1757 and 1765 he put together two sales comprising some of his stock and his own private art collection, the catalogues included several pendules à seconds, none of which had any movements (nos 155-156 in 1757 and 97-99 in 1765), of which the latter two had amaranth veneers. However the inventory drawn up after Cressent’s death in 1768 did not include any regulators though it did list a few clocks by the horologers Hervé or Guiot with shell and metal or ebony marquetry inlays. While most of Cressent’s identified regulators were veneered in bois satiné and amaranth, one should also mention an example veneered in palisander (Pradère, “Charles Cressent”, cat. 262), as well as in ebony (cat. 267) and in bois de violette, which in addition to the present example includes the one in the Musée des Arts Décoratifs de Lyon (cat. 260). The identified models all have the same overall shape and similar bronze mounts that include a rocaille cartouche surrounding the glazed pendulum aperture that is similar in style to those by Boulle and Berain. Other similar motifs include the rocaille mounts adorning the base. A number of comparable regulators also include beneath the dial a mount showing an allegory of the winds composed of two putti blowing amid clouds (alluding to Venus being blown ashore by the wind), which was inspired by a mount created by Boulle for the Count of Toulouse’s regulator, now in the Musée du Louvre (illustrated in Daniel Alcouffe, Anne Dion Tenenbaum, and Amaury Lefebure, “Le Mobilier du Musée du Louvre”, 1993, vol. I, p. 102-105). One also finds variations in other identified Cressent regulators, for instance some of them are decorated with Chinoiserie masks, as also used by Cressent on some of his encoignures (see Pradère, “Charles Cressent”, cat 188-191). However in this instance the mask below the dial portrays a beautiful female head as also found on another Cressent regulator formerly in the Wallace Collection as well as two others with movements signed by the clockmaker Duchesne (cats. 264-266). The marchand-ébéniste and sculpteur Charles Cressent (1685-1768) was one of the greatest French ébénistes. He was also one of the first of the Régence and Rococo period to use elaborate gilt bronze mounts of increasing sculptural quality and splendour on furniture which now relied on relatively simple wood veneers rather than ornate carving. In this Cressent stood alone. The son of the sculpteur François Cressent, under whom he trained and the grandson of a maître ébéniste and sculpteur, who may also have taught him, ensured that Cressent was to become a furniture maker of distinction. Cressent was elected a member of the Académie de Saint-Luc as a sculpteur in 1714. About the same time or shortly after he began working for Joseph Poitou, ébéniste to the duc d’Orléans; in 1719 Cressent married Poitou’s daughter and subsequently inherited the latter’s business as well as his appointment as ébéniste to the duc. Following his father’s death sometime after 1746 Cressent also succeeded him as sculpteur du Roi to Louis XV.
However the dual role as both ébéniste and sculpteur often led to difficulties with the guild of fondeurs and doreurs since Cressent contravened their regulations by making a number of bronze mounts in his own workshop for some of his furniture whilst on other occasions he supplied the casters with models that he himself had created. In addition to the duc d’Orléans and Louis XV, Cressent’s patrons included King John V of Portugal, the Elector Charles Albert of Bavaria, the duc de Richelieu, Mme de Pompadour, her brother the marquis de Marigny and other elite and very wealthy clientele. Esteemed as much today as he was in his lifetime, his work can be found amongst the world’s greatest collections including the Wallace Collection and Waddesdon Manor in England as well as the Residenz Museum in Munich and the Musée du Louvre and Bibliothèque National in Paris. The finesse and quality of Cressent’s craftsmanship is matched by that of the clockmaker Julien Le Roy, who with Hervé and Guiot was the main clockmaker to be associated with regulator cases by Cressent. To these can be added a clock with a model of Danae and a cartel with an Apollo mask (Pradère, op. cit, cat 219, 148, 251). Like Cressent, Le Roy was regarded as a forerunner in his field and likewise counted amongst his patrons Louis XV and the duc d’Orléans, in addition to other members of the royal court and Cardinal de Fleury. Le Roy was responsible for significantly raising the standards of the Parisian clock trade. After he befriended the British clockmaker, Henry Sully and his senior colleague, William Blakey, a number of high quality English and Dutch makers were introduced into the Parisian workshops; this, as well as Le Roy’s own advances in the quest to improve accurate time measurement, actively encouraged renewed life into the flagging Parisian trade. Born in Tours, he trained under his father, Pierre Le Roy and by the age of thirteen had already made his own clock.
In 1699 Julien Le Roy moved to Paris, where he was apprenticed under Le Bon; it is said that while there he succeeded in making and completing a watch in only eight days. Received as a maître-horloger in 1713, he later became a juré of his guild; he was also juré of the Société des Arts, 1735 to 1737, an association that he proudly referred to on the present dial face. Perhaps his most important appointment began in 1739 when he was made Horloger Ordinaire du Roi to Louis XV. Although he was given lodgings in the Louvre he never occupied them but instead installed his son, Pierre (1717-85) while continuing to operate his own business from rue de Harlay, where he remained for the rest of his life. Le Roy’s innovations and improvements were substantial, notably his perfection of monumental clocks that showed mean and true time, of which his model at Hôtel des Missions Etrangères was exemplary. Le Roy also researched equation movements showing and chiming true time and advanced pull repeat mechanisms. He also resolved many problems to do with watchmaking to ensure they were easier to construct and simpler to maintain. One aspect was his adoption of George Graham’s cylinder, which eventually resulted in reducing the watch’s thickness. George Graham was among his many admirers, who on inspecting Le Roy’s work once noted “I would like to be younger so as to make watches like this”. Due to his unrivalled success, Le Roy was not limited by commercial constraints; for instance he nearly always made high quality watches and clocks in pairs so that the case and decoration perfectly matched. He generally chose clock cases himself, which were supplied by the very finest makers of his day and in addition to Cressent included the Caffiéris, André-Charles Boulle, Jean-Joseph de Saint-Germain, Robert Osmond, Balthazar Lieutaud, Antoine Foullet and others, while Antoine-Nicolas Martinière, Nicolas Jullien and possibly Elie Barbezat generally made his dials.
Julien Le Roy’s work can be found among the world’s greatest collections including the Musées du Louvre, Cognacq-Jay, Jacquemart-André and the Petit Palais in Paris. Other examples are housed at Château de Versailles, at the Victoria and Albert Museum and Guildhall in London and at Waddesdon Manor, Buckinghamshire. The Musée d’Horlogerie, La Chaux-de-Fonds and Museum der Zeitmessung Bayer, Zurich as well as the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam and Musées Royaux d’Art et d’Histoire, Brussels all house his work, as do the Museum für Kunsthandwerck, Dresden, the National Museum Stockholm and Musea Nacional de Arte Antigua, Lisbon. Works by Le Roy in American collections include the J. P. Getty Museum, California; the Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore and the Detroit Institute of Art. Likewise his work has been eagerly sought after by more recent collectors, counting among them the Baron and Baronne Lopez de Tarragoya who once owned the present regulator. Much of their distinguished art collection, formed during the early twentieth century, was acquired through the Parisian dealers Bensimon, L. Kraemer et Fils and Jacques Seligman. Seligman had purchased the majority of the Hertford-Wallace property in 1914 from 2 rue Lafitte and the Château de Bagatelle and consequently numerous items in the Lopez Tarragoya collection are said to have come from Sir Richard Wallace’s collection, which is interesting since as noted a Cressent long case regulator, as here featuring a female mask head mount, is known to have previously been in the Wallace Collection. Thus it is conceivable that this clock could have come from the Hertford-Wallace Collection. It is also known that the Baron Lopez Tarragoya bought pieces from the Loewenstein Collection and the comte de Montesquiu and also frequented the great sales of his day as well as Galerie Charpentier, Paris.