A European Princely family, until recent years.
Tardy, "French Clocks - The World Over", 1981, vol. I, p. 285, illustrating an identical clock case and music box in a Belgian private collection. Hans Ottomeyer and Peter Pröschel, "Vergoldete Bronzen", 1986, p. 123, pl. 2.8.3, illustrating a very similar clock signed on the dial Moisy à Paris housed in an identical case stamped St. Germain but without the musical box below; and on the same page pl. 2.8.4, illustrating a very similar clock and music box with mounts by Jean-Joseph de Saint Germain, signed on the dial Autran à Montelimart with identical drum, surmounting putto and music box but with a wild boar in place of the elephant. Peter Heuer-Klaus Maurice, "European Pendulum Clocks", 1988, p. 28, pl. 27, illustrating a very similar clock signed on the dial Gudin à Paris, with identical drum, surmounting putto and music box but with a rhinoceros facing right in place of the elephant. Klaus Maurice, "Fine Antique Clocks of the 17th to 19th Century", 1990, p. 66, pl. 52, illustrating a very similar elephant clock without music box in the Pitti Palace, Florence, signed on the dial Beckaert à Paris, with an identical drum and surmounting putto but with the elephant facing in the opposite direction. Peter Hughes, "The Wallace Collection Catalogue of Furniture", 1996, vol. II, no. 135 (F400-1) pp. 629-631, illustrating and describing a pair of gilt bronze mounted tortoiseshell caskets (coffres de toilette) identical in design to the present music box. Elke Niehüser, "Die Französische Bronzeuhr", 1997, p. 241, pl. 885, illustrating an identical clock case but without music box. Pierre Kjellberg, "Encyclopédie de la Pendule Française du Moyen Age au XXe Siècle", 1997, p. 128, pl. A, illustrating an identical clock and music box, signed on the dial Molé à Paris, the elephant of a black patinated bronze, lacking the trellis-work between the scrolls on top of the music box mounts and music box itself in a much brighter coloured green horn veneer; and on the same page, pl. B, illustrating another almost identical clock and music box, with mounts stamped Saint-Germain and dial signed Etienne Le Noir à Paris, the elephant of a gilt bronze, lacking the trellis-work between the scrolls on top of the music box mounts and music box itself veneered in red tortoiseshell.
A rare and very important Louis XV gilt and patinated bronze Pendule 'À L'Éléphant' with gilt bronze mounted green horn music box, signed on the white enamel dial and on the movement Charles Baltazar à Paris, also signed and dated on the dial reverse Decla 1747, the magnificent mounts attributed to the bronzier Jean-Joseph de Saint-Germain and music box to his father the ébéniste Joseph de Saint-Germain, the elephant and all the mounts stamped with a C-couronné poinçon. The enamel dial with blue Roman and Arabic numerals with a very fine pair of pierced and engraved foliate gilt brass hands for the hours and minutes. The four knobbed pillared movement with anchor escapement and silk thread suspension, striking on a single bell, with outside count wheel.
The wonderful green patinated drum-shaped case surrounded by flowering gilt bronze flowers and foliage and surmounted by a seated putto, supported on the back of an elephant with a rare red lacquer patina, the elephant facing to the right with raised trunk and gilded girth, standing on a floral rocaille base and trellis-work between the scrolls, the bombé-shaped base containing the musical mechanism playing one of twelve airs with twenty hammers on eleven bells every hour or at will, the magnificent green stained horn veneered base mounted with gilt bronze borders cast and chiselled with gadrooning and foliage, the corners with scrolling foliate mounts terminated by scrolled feet, the front with a basket of flowers within trellis-work, the back with a hinged door, the sides with shield-shaped panels with trellis-work
Paris, dated 1747
Height 69 cm.
Rarely does one have the opportunity to acquire such an outstanding work of art as the present Pendule 'À L'Éléphant' complete with its original musical box, which until recently was in the collection of a European Princely family. Such clocks were made in France during the eighteenth century in very limited numbers for affluent, yet discerning clientele and as here were made to the highest standards, of the most luxurious materials and combined the talents of the greatest artists of the day. This rare work is such an example since the movement was made by the great Parisian clockmaker Henri-Charles Balthazar (maître 1717 d. before 1776), known as Charles (also as Charles père l'Aîné), who as here signed his clocks Charles Baltazar. His work is complemented by the quality of the enamel dial, painted by Jacques Decla (fl by 1742 d. after 1764), which is signed and dated 1747 verso. The date corresponds with the C-couronné poinçons on the elephant and all the mounts; the crowned C stamp being an obligatory tax mark struck on bronzes or any alloy incorporating copper, produced or offered for re-sale between March 1745 and February 1749.
That the bronze case and mounts can be confidently attributed to Jean-Joseph de Saint-Germain (1719-1791) is confirmed by comparison with other identical or almost identical models, cited above and discussed in due course. It is also very likely that the musical box was made by the latter's father the ébéniste Joseph de Saint Germain (maître 1750). Such boxes were often paired with clocks but were also available as individual caskets or coffres de toilette; the present example being almost identical to a pair in the Wallace Collection, London bearing the monogram of Louis Prince de Rohan on their domed lids with mounts attributed to Jean-Joseph de Saint-Germain. Peter Hughes, in "The Wallace Collection, Catalogue of Furniture", 1996, vol. II, p. 631 compares the latter with another identical music box signed St. Germain JME with identical mounts presumed to have been supplied by his son (sold Sotheby's London, April 17, 1964, lot 107).
Undoubtedly the two most famous eighteenth century bronziers to produce elephant clocks were Jean-Joseph de Saint-Germain and Jacques Caffiéri (1678-1755), the latter for instance being responsible for an elephant clock of 1755, without music box, the elephant facing right with lowered trunk and drum surmounted by a monkey with parasol in the Jones Collection, Victoria and Albert Museum London. The present case however compares exactly with a few others stamped by or attributed to Jean-Joseph de Saint-Germain. In addition to those listed above should be added an identical case with musical box in the collection of the Duke of Buccleuch at Drumlanrig Castle and a comparison without music box but stamped St. Germain, illustrated in Ottomeyer and Pröschel, op.cit. p. 123, pl. 2.8.3.
J.-J. de Saint-Germain produced variations on the same theme so that in some instances a boar replaced the elephant, though all other elements including the putto and gilt bronze mounted music box remained constant, (illus. Ottomeyer and Pröschel, op.cit. p. 123, pl. 2.8.4). Other of Saint-Germain's clock cases incorporating wild beasts include a rhinoceros clock with music box, in the Grog donation to the Musée du Louvre, (illustrated in "Cinq Années d'Enrichissements du Patrimonie National 1975-1980" exhibition catalogue, Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais, Paris, 1981).
Given the C-couronné poinçon stamps and the date on the dial, the present case was among one of the earlier models of this type and would have been made while both Joseph and Jean-Joseph de Saint-Germain were still working ouvrier libre. Interestingly Jean-Joseph was received into his own guild two years before his father becoming a maître fondeur-ciseleur in 1748. Details of his outstanding career are outlined in more detail on p. ?? (Old no 65) in this book. But suffice it to say he was one of the most celebrated bronziers of his age and an incontestable champion of the Rococo style who produced clock cases and other works in gilt bronze for an exclusive and discriminating clientele. As a passionate amateur botanist, he delighted in incorporating elements of nature within his works which ranged from figures of rhinoceroses, elephants, boars and fantastic creatures such as dragons, to naturalistically cast flowers, foliage, palm fronts, water, shells and seed pods. His father Joseph de Saint-Germain, who was received as a maître ébéniste in July 1750 and worked in the Faubourg Saint-Antoine, specialised in the production of wooden cases for clocks and barometers. Among those on public show are clock cases with Boulle marquetry in the Musée Historique de Bâle and at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs at Strasbourg as well as a Louis XV barometer-thermometer exhibited at "Grands Ebénistes" exhibition at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris 1955-56, no. 281.
The importance of this clock cannot be over emphasised especially as it stands on its original music box. As mentioned these boxes were frequently paired with a clock but were also available as individual coffers. In addition to the identical example in the Wallace Collection and the one sold in London 1964 given to Joseph and Jean-Joseph de Saint-Germain, another identical box was exhibited at the International Art Treasures Exhibition, Victoria and Albert Museum, 1962, no. 427, illustrated in the catalogue pl. 234. As here its mounts were struck with the crowned C and thus of similar date to the present work. Other identical music boxes are recorded including one formerly in the collection of Jacques Doucet supporting a clock with lion by Saint-Germain; another with an elephant clock was in the Edward James Collection while a Rape of Europa clock with a base of the same model is in the Hofburg, Vienna.
Though it is tempting to assume that all music boxes of this type and design were a collaborative effort between Saint-Germain senior and junior, it would be incorrect to claim that they had a monopoly in this area, since similar boxes were made by other ébénistes of the same period. See for example a coffer in the Wallace Collection (illustrated, P. Hughes, op.cit. p. 134), which is stamped by Antoine Foullet (maître 1749) who worked prodigiously for the clockmakers. There also exists another similar box by Jean Goyer (maître 1740) supporting a Rape of Europe clock case by Osmond in the British Royal Collection (illustrated Cedric Jagger, "Royal Clocks", 1983, p. 140, pl. 191). Interesting the mounts on the box are struck with crowned C stamps while the Osmond case above is not suggesting that they were not united until after 1749.
The attribution to Saint-Germain is strengthened by the fact that he was one of the main suppliers of cases to the clockmaker Henri-Charles Balthazar, one of the most famous members of a large family of clockmakers and a leading Parisian maker during the Louis XV and early Louis XVI periods. Charles Balthazar was the son of Henry (though Tardy notes that his father was Jean-Baptiste). His brothers Marc-Antoine, Denis, Noël, Jean-Chrysostome and Joseph were also fine makers as was his own son, Louis-Charles (maître 1768). Having become a maître-horloger in 1717, Charles soon established great repute and gained the title of Horloger de Mesdames Filles de France. His list of clients was most impressive, including the Garde-Meuble de la Couronne, as well as the Ambassador of Russia, the comte d'Armentières, the marquis de Saint-Georges and Monsieur Castel.
By 1733 Balthazar was recorded at Place Dauphine but four years later was established at the Cloister de Saint-Germain de l'Auxerrois. Later in 1747 he worked in rue du Roule where he continued until at least 1772, at which time he received the Freedom of the City. He made both watches and clocks fitting movements for mantle clocks, cartels and longcase clocks. As would befit a clockmaker of his standing his cases were made by the finest makers of the day. In addition to Saint-Germain his cases were supplied by Edme Roy, Jacques Dumont and Jean-Louis Beaucour as well as Balthazar Lieutaud, Jean Goyer and Antoine Foullet and in turn Balthazar supplied clock movements to the ébénistes Jean-François Oeben and Jacques Dubois. Today one can admire his work in the Musée de Château de Champs and the Museum für Künsthandwerk in Dresden.
The whole clock is perfectly complemented by the very fine quality dial, which was supplied by one of the leading enamellists of his day, Jacques Decla. Though little is known of his life we know that he was active by 1742. Records show that on 30th January 1764, Decla was admitted as a painter into the Académie de Saint-Luc, a guild of decorative painters, designers, and sculptors. However seven months later, the guild of master enamellers confiscated his stock owing to strict guild regulations that prevented members from practicing both the art of painting and enamelling. However Decla's stock was eventually returned the next year after a ruling confirmed that as he was a member of both the guild of enamellers and enamel-painters, he was entitled to make enamelled clock faces. Until now only two dials by him were known one of which, dated 1746 was made for a clock by Etienne Le Noir surmounting a cartonnier by Bernard van Risenburgh II, (B.V.R.B.), now in the J. P. Getty Museum, California.