5
5

MASTERWORKS OF TIME

A gold, enamel and split pearl automaton pistol perfume spray and timepiece, Moulinié, Bautte & Ce., Geneva, 1804-1808
Estimation
200 000250 000
Lot. Vendu 275,000 GBP (Prix d’adjudication avec commission acheteur)
ACCÉDER AU LOT
5

MASTERWORKS OF TIME

A gold, enamel and split pearl automaton pistol perfume spray and timepiece, Moulinié, Bautte & Ce., Geneva, 1804-1808
Estimation
200 000250 000
Lot. Vendu 275,000 GBP (Prix d’adjudication avec commission acheteur)
ACCÉDER AU LOT

Details & Cataloguing

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A gold, enamel and split pearl automaton pistol perfume spray and timepiece, Moulinié, Bautte & Ce., Geneva, 1804-1808
in the form of a flintlock pistol, the butt enamelled in translucent scarlet over scale engine-turning and concealing the watch movement, the cylinder movement with plain tri-spoke brass balance and feather-tooled escapement fork, the dial with black Breguet numerals on a white enamel ground, the plates chased on one side with a hare and on the other a hound, within narrow black enamel cut-cornered rectangular borders, the faceted barrel enamelled in blue with gold paillon scroll ornament and revealing a cone-shaped rose with six gold and white enamel petals spraying perfume when the chased gold trigger and rectangular quartz hammer, crowned by a gold mask, are struck, all contained within split pearl borders, on gold chains with ring, signed under the trigger: Moulinié Bautte / & Ce
11 cm., 4 1/4 in. long closed; 12.5 cm., 4 7/8 in. open
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Description

Moulinié, Bautte & Cie.
By far the most famous Geneva bijoutier horloger of the first half of the 19th century was Jean-François Bautte (1772-1837) whose reputation spread far and wide. Jean-François was the son of Abraham Bautte, an enameller, and his wife Marie Anne Mare, but was orphaned in early childhood. On 19 May 1789, he was formally apprenticed to Moulinié & Blanchot, watchcase makers, both of whom had been received as masters the previous year. Jean-François is said to have been apprenticed at the age of 12 so possibly a first master had died; part of the Bautte myth states that he was able to turn his hand to all branches of the trade. Jacques-Dauphin Moulinié (1761-1838) and Jean-François Bautte registered a company together in 1796, stating that it had been in existence since 1 August 1793 with a 9 year contract. On 1 October 1804, a new company, Moulinié, Bautte & Cie., was created for four years with the addition of Jean-Gabriel Moynier (1772-1840) and it was at this time that the present singing bird box was made. The new firm was registered not just as watchcase makers but more generally 'pour la commerce d'horlogerie et bijouterie'. From 1808 until 1821 when Moulinié retired, the firm was known as Moulinié, Bautte & Moynier, subsequently as Bautte & Moynier until 1826. The business continued as J.F. Bautte & Cie., even after Jean-François's death in 1837, by his son Jacques and son-in-law Jean Samuel Rossel, until 1855. The company had grown rapidly in size and importance with Bautte’s impetus, employing 60 in-house and 30 outside workers by 1810.

Many are the stories told about this shrewd and charismatic character, apparently known to his workmen as the ‘bourru bienfaisant’, the ‘generous grump’, who, after the Napoleonic wars ended in 1815, became himself a tourist attraction. His elegant establishment was concealed up a discreet staircase (perfumed with eau de cologne) so that each visitor felt he was making a new discovery. Before this, Bautte's success came from energetic trade abroad, with China and the Middle East and also in Italy and Paris, where Bautte had first entered a goldsmith’s mark in 1808.

The Pistol
For the Near and Far Eastern markets, fresh novelties were always needed and it appears that these pistols were an instant success. Originally made in pairs, they were directly copied from the most up-to-date pairs of Parisian duelling pistols (see fig. 1). The successful idea of a pistol automaton was later taken up by the Frères Rochat who introduced a singing bird which emerged from the barrel rather than a scent spray. Examples of pairs of both types of imitation pistol were exhibited at Patek Philippe’s loan exhibition of pairs made for the Chinese market, see Arnaud Tellier, The Mirror of Seduction, exhibition catalogue, Patek Philippe Museum, Geneva, 2012, pp. 72-75 and 78-79.

Of the surviving examples of scent spray pistols (around fifteen only are recorded, decorated in the same enamel colours but with a variety of chased sporting animals on the side panels), five are signed by Moulinié, Bautte & Cie.: the present example; the Patek Philippe pair mentioned above; one illustrated in Sturm & Patrizzi, Montres de Fantaisie, Geneva, 1979, no. 26 and cover, with Roman numerals on the dial; and one sold, Sotheby’s Geneva, 6 May 1981, lot 297. This last was probably originally the pair to the present example since the hare and hound on the side panels appear in reverse, the dials both have arabic numerals, the chains and ring match and neither have red enamel on the borders of the flower petals. Another example in the Sandoz collection is signed by the marchand-bijoutier Jean-Baptiste Garrand, see Ian White, The Majesty of the Chinese-Market Watch, AHS, London, 2019, ch. 6, no. 20. Unsigned pistols are to be found in the Wilsdorf Collection, Geneva; Sir David Salomons Collection, Mayer Museum, Jerusalem; the Musée International d’Horlogerie, La Chaux-de-Fonds; and the Topkapi Museum, Istanbul (the dial with Turkish numerals) and in private collections.

 

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