During the 1740s, Michel Ferdinand of Albert d'Ailly, Duke of Picquigny and 6th Duke of Chaulnes (1714-1769) developed a microscope which, according to Alexis Magny, brought together "All that the best Artists, all foreign as well as national, have come up with the best idea to make the use of this instrument more convenient and useful
". The first model was presented to Louis XV by his supposed manufacturer, the elder Nicolas Noël (1712 / 13-1783), via the intermediary Chaulnes, the true designer of the instrument.
Having acquired the microscope by Chaulnes / Noël, Louis XV ordered a second to offer to his father-in-law Stanislas Leszczynski, former King of Poland. However, Stanislas was elderly, so there was a need to adapt the instrument so that he could use it seated. Magny was responsible for doing this. In eight days he modified the apparatus, adding an ebony eye guard and endowed the microscope with a magnifying power superior to that of the original model.
Based on this modified instrument (now at the Musée de Lorraine, Nancy), a series of more simplified apparatuses were developed by Magny during the following years. Instruments that he signed, dated and even, something exceptional for the time, numbered. Due to this initiative, we know today that he had produced at least nineteen examples. Among this number, six are known including the one enumerated 13, now presented for auction. The other copies are:
- The instrument offered to Stanislas Leszczynski, Musée de Lorraine, Nancy
- An instrument whose number is illegible, dated 1752, auctioned at Christie's South Kensington, London, 24 April 2013, lot 73
- Instrument no. 14 , 1754 also described in the Nachet collection catalogue
- Instrument no. 18, 1755, Nordiska Museet, Stokholm
- Instrument no. 19, 1755, the Louvre, Paris
Alexis Magny (fl
.1734 - post 1792), was born in Namps-au-Monts, village south of Amiens. From 1733-1734 he worked as a mechanic for collector and art admirer Joseph Bonnier de la Mosson, the Duke of Chaulnes's brother in law. After the death of the latter in 1744, Magny set up shop in the privileged locale of the abbey of Saint-Germain-des-Près where he researched the production of marine compasses, and the manufacturing of these microscopes.
The family collection of Nachet company
Founded in 1839 by Camille Sébastien Nachet (1799-1881), Nachet company became one of the most famous optical manufacturers in France, notably for its microscopes. In order to trace the apparatus's evolution, his successor as management of the company until 1899, Jean Albert Nachet started a collection of antique instruments. Then Albert Nachet published the catalogue in 1929 where our microscope appears under no. 45. A large part of this collection was scattered during the 1970s.