This musical clock is an important example of 18th century French fashion to produce mantel clocks incorporating figures of animals such as rhinoceri, elephants and bulls. Ever since Albrecht Dürer published a woodcut depicting a rhinoceros with an armor-like hide, reptilian scales on its legs, and an extra horn protruding from between its shoulders (fig.1), there was a growing interest in exoticism and in particular, the figure of the rhinoceros, a curiosity which was heightened with the arrival in Paris in 1749 of a real rhinoceros named Clara.
Clara the rhinoceros was first ‘adopted’ in Bengal by the director of the Dutch East India Company, Jan Albert Sichterman, when she was only a month old. From July 1741 onwards, she was owned by the Douwe Mout van der Meer. For seventeen years Clara toured many central European cities, including Berlin, Hanover, Leipzig, Vienna, Strasbourg, Nuremberg, Zurich, and Frankfurt. She posed for Johann Joachim Kändler from the Meissen porcelain factory in 1747, visited Louis XV at the Royal Menagerie at Versailles in 1749 and travelled to Italy in 1750 (G. Ridley, Clara's Grand Tour: Travels with a Rhinoceros in Eighteenth-Century Europe, London, 2004). Clara quickly became an international act and her likeness is recorded in two important paintings: the first painted by Jean-Baptiste Oudry in Paris, and the second by Pietro Longhi in Venice. Since a rhinoceros had not been present in Europe since 1579, Clara’s tour throughout Europe provided scientists and the larger public with an accurate model of the species.
The Parisian marchands-mercier and artisans seized this opportunity to reproduce Clara’s likeness, the present work being an important example of that. Tastemakers capitalized on the novelty, generating a “rhinomania” of poems, coiffures à la rhinoceros, engravings, snuffboxes and clocks with rhinoceros bases.
Three different types of rhinoceros on clocks are known. The earliest, based on Dürer’s engraving showed the animal with a second horn on its shoulder, represented by a clock formerly in the Alexander Collection, sold Christie's, New York, 30 April 1999, lot 115. The second, with the head of the rhinoceros rearing was probably based on a model made by Kändler for the Meissen porcelain factory (H. Ottomeyer, P. Pröschel, et al., Vergoldete Bronzen, Munich, 1986, vol. II, p. 525, fig. 2). The third model was inspired after Clara. Saint-Germain produced several slightly different versions of this type of clock case with different types of rhinoceri and the dials are almost always signed by a different clockmaker. For example, the inventory drawn up upon the death of Jean-Joseph de Saint-Germain's wife in 1747, mentions 'deux pendules au rhinoceros l'une pour modèle et l'autre finie prisées ensembles la somme de 140 l.'.
Some were produced as simple clocks while a few others, like the present piece, had the addition of a musical box. The boxes were frequently paired with clocks, however, they were also available as coffers, fitted with domed lids, such as a coffer de toilette in the Wallace Collection, veneered with the monogram of Louis, Prince de Rohan; the mounts attributed to Saint Germain (inv. no. F400).
The French court under Louis XV commissioned pendulums from Saint-Germain, three of which can be safely identified thanks to the inventories of the garde-meuble and of the furnishings of the Princes. The first is: a “pendule de cheminée en bronze doré d’or moulu, sur une terrasse représentant l’enlevement d’Europe, le taureau couleur de bronze antique, une nymphe et un amour”, by Daille, the watchmaker of Dauphine Marie-Josèphe of Saxony. This piece, which was delivered to the garde-meuble in August 1763, stood in 1788 in the Cabinet of Madame Victoire at the Château de Versailles. The second was personally owned by Marie-Antoinette and is described as: “pendule portée par un rhinoceros pose sur terrasse doré en ormolu, l’animal noir de fumé portant sur son dos un tambour dans lequel est le mouvement à sonnerie du nom de J.B. Baillon.”
The third ‘pendule’ is: a “pendule à carillon représentant un rhinocéros portant la pendule et posé sur un coffre d’ébénisterie plaqué et garni de bronze doré d’or moulu”, with a clock by Jacque Gudin and which stood in the Château de Saint-Cloud. The pendulum, which probably belonged to the Duchesse d'Orléans, Auguste of Baden-Baden (1704-1726), may have been sold by her son, Louis Philippe d'Orléans, when the Château de Saint-Cloud was bought in 1785 by King Louis XVI for Marie-Antoinette. However, before this date, the clock is not mentioned in the inventories of the garde-meuble. Interestingly, the description of this third clock commissioned from Saint-Germain by the court entirely corresponds to the present example.
The attribution to Saint-Germain may be confirmed thanks to the historical documents aforementioned, but also to comparative examples highlighted by the stylistic characteristics and quality of his clocks in general. For example, this clock relates to a pendulum with a case by Saint-Germain and the movement by Viger in the Grog-Carven collection at the Musée du Louvre (inv. no. OA 10540) - fig.2. Both bearing the C Couronné poinçon (a tax mark employed on any alloy containing copper between March 1745 and February 1749) -fig.3-, the musical clock at the Louvre and the present one share almost identical characteristics such as the overall structure of the clock, and particularly the gilt-bronze mounted rococo foliate platform on which the bronze rhinoceros sits, supplied by Saint-Germain. Only the finials differ - the Louvre example with a young Indian figure and the present clock with a seated putto.
Related musical clocks by, or attributed to Saint Germain are recorded:
- Formerly in the collection of Jacques Doucet; sold Ader Picard Tajan, Paris, June 18 1969, lot 79, with a clock by Nevers, the case by Saint-Germain incorporating a lion, illustrated in H. Ottomeyer and P. Proschel, op. cit., vol.2, p.530, fig. 9.
- Sotheby's London, June 25, 1982, lot 68, illustrated, with a clock by Autran, the box by St.-Germain incorporating a boar (illustrated in H. Ottomeyer and P. Proschel, op.cit., vol.,I, p.123, fig. 2..8.4.)
- Collection of Roberto Polo, sold, Sotheby's, New York, November 3, 1989, lot 44, illustrated, with a clock by Saint-Germain incorporating a rhinoceros.
- Sotheby's New York, October 27, 2001, lot 173, illustrated with the case and music box signed St. Germain.
Jean-Joseph de Saint-Germain (1719-1791)
Jean-Joseph de Saint-Germain was elected as a maître-fondeur on July 15, 1748. He enjoyed the privilege of an ouvrier libre, enabling him to act both as an ébéniste and bronzier. He was incontestably one of the principal promoters of the rococo style and created clock cases of extraordinary inventiveness and quality.
Jacques-Jérôme Gudin (1732-1789)
Son of Jacques and Henriette Lenoir, Gudin was a clock and watch maker reçu maître in 1762. First established on the Quai des Orfèvres, he then moved to rue Saint-Honoré and often worked with the famous Jean-Baptiste-André Furet, Horloger Ordinaire du Roi. He used cases by Jean-Joseph de Saint Germain, Robert and Jean-Baptiste Osmond, and François Vion. He supplied clocks to the Prince of Conti, the Princess of Monaco, and the Duke of Choiseul and his watches are, among others, in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art (90.22.7a, b), Musée du Louvre, Château de Versailles and Windsor Castle (RCIN 3144).
 Paris, Archive Nationales, O/1/3371
 E. Lery, “Les pendules de Marie-Antoinette”, in Revue de l’Histoire de Versailles et de Seine et Oise, 1931, pp.95-100
 Paris, Archive Nationales, O/1/3371
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