A rare and important Louis XIV ormolu-mounted, patinated bronze, tortoiseshell and ebony mantel clock, attributed to André-Charles Boulle circa 1715, the movement signed Thuret A Paris
- ebony, oak, tortoiseshell, bronze, enamel
Possibly W. W. Hope, sold Paris, June 4, 1855, lot 183 (14,000 Francs)
Bought at that sale by Baron Achille Seillière (died 1874)
Inherited by his daughter, the princesse de Sagan (died 1908)
Charles J. Wertheimer, 21 Norfolk St., Park Lane, London W.1., Christie's London, May 9, 1912, lot 99, said to have come from the Rochecouart-Mortemart family
C. E. Hodgkins, sold Galerie Charpentier, Paris, December 14, 1936, lot 110
Sotheby's Monaco, June 17, 1989, lot 897
The Property of Nancy Richardson, Christie's New York, Arts of France, October 21, 1997, lot 47
Peter Hughes, The Wallace Collection: Catalogue of Furniture, London, 1996, pp. 358-59
Geoffrey de Bellaigue, The James A De Rothschild Collection at Waddesdon Manor: Furniture, Clocks and Gilt Bronzes, Vol. I, 1974, p. 59
Hans Ottomeyer and Peter Pröschel, Vergoldete Bronzen, 1986, Vol. I, p. 46 and Vol. II, p. 480
Alexandre Pradère, French Furniture Makers, 1989, p. 6
Jean-Dominique Augarde, Les Ouvriers du Temps, Geneva, 1997, p. 110
The dial of this clock shares its design incorporating flying putti with other clocks by Boulle including one purchased by Nicolas Desmarets (1648-1721), Colbert's nephew, circa 1690-1700, illustrated Hans Ottomeyer and Peter Pröschel, Vergoldete Bronzen, 1986, Vol. I, p. 81, and another shown in a drawing of a clock attributed to Boulle in the Musée des Arts Décoratifs (inv. no. A.723 D).
Two further examples of this model are known; one at Waddesdon Manor, see by Geoffrey de Bellaigue, The James A. de Rothschild Collection at Waddesdon Manor: Furniture, Clocks and Gilt Bronzes, Vol. I, 1974, pp. 59-61, and another which is fitted with a movement by Jolly and surmounted with gilt bronze figures but lacking the floral garland, now in The Wallace Collection, London, see Peter Hughes, The Wallace Collection: Catalogue of Furniture, London, 1996, pp. 354-359, no. 87 (F93). The Waddesdon example, which was purchased by Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild (1839-1898), was originally commissioned by Phillipe Thomé, son of Boulle's client Pierre Thomé, in the early 1700s. The Wallace clock was bought for the fourth Marquess of Hertford at the San Donato sale in Paris, March 22-31, 1970, lot 273 for 46,500 Francs, where it was described as 'modèle rare.'
The clock, possibly the one offered here, sold in the Hope sale on June 4, 1855, lot 183, was described as une pendule de Boulle Venus à la coquille en bronze florentin du temps de Louis XIV 14000 francs. That piece was presumably bought by Baron Achille Seillière, who also purchased Hope's house in Paris, l'hôtel du Monaco, along with a part of his collection. The clock is listed in the inventory following Seillière's death in 1874 where it is described as having a 'guirlande de fleurs.' It was inherited by his daughter the princesse de Sagan who died in 1908. The presence of the garland of flowers implies that Seillière's clock was either the one at Waddesdon or this lot.
A clock of this model was delivered to George IV for Carlton House on November 9, 1812. Described as 'A Venus or Shell Clock in Or Moulu, on Green Marble Pedestal,' it was later given away. It is unclear whether the King's clock is the fourth example mentioned in Boulle's acte de délaissement or one of the other three but with the addition of a marble base.
André-Charles Boulle's acte de délaissement, in which he made over his property to his four sons in 1715, includes an entry that provides vital information in attributing this clock to that iconic cabinet-maker:
'Une boëte de pandulle historiée d'une Vénus avec son amour dont il n' y a que le corps de la boëte fait, les bronzes n'étant que moulée et prêtes à fondre, commandée, valant avec trois autres boëtes de pandulle dans le même état...2500l.'
As indicated in the entry, the clock was unfinished and that three others of this model were in production. The 1732 inventory following Boulle's death includes figures of Venus and Cupid to be mounted on la pandule à Vénus:
'Item no 79. Une figure et un enfant servant pour la pandule à Vénus, et un autre petit enfant pezans ensemble trente-huit livres, prisés à raison de quarante sols la livre...LXXVI l.'
A bronze figure of Venus of this model is now in the J. Paul Getty Museum, Malibu, where it is attributed to the sculptor Robert Le Lorrain (1666-1743), based on similarities shared with his statue of Andromeda of circa 1695-96, now in the Louvre. Interestingly, a Venus figure of this design is also listed in Boulle's acte de délaissement: 'Une figure de bronze représentant une Vénus sortant de la mer et une autre représantant une fortune...400l.'
The clockmaker Thuret, who signed the movement, may be Isaac Thuret (died 1706) or most likely his son Jacques Thuret (1669-1738), who is thought to have worked closely with Boulle from his nearby workshop in the Galeries du Louvre and provided the movements for many of Boulle's clocks.