TEFAF Maastricht 2020
Attributed to André-Charles Boulle
Louis XIV ormolu-mounted, patinated bronze, tortoiseshell and ebony mantel clock, c. 1715
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, 9 May 1912, lot 99, said to have come from the Rochecouart-Mortemart family
C. E. Hodgkins, sold Galerie Charpentier, Paris, 14 December 1936, lot 110
Sotheby’s, Monaco, 17 June 1989, lot 897
The Property of Nancy Richardson, Christie’s New York, Arts of France, 21 October 1997, lot 47
Safra collection, Monaco
Private collection, UK
T. H. Lunsingh Scheurleer, “Parmigianino and Boulle” Burlington Magazine LXVIII (1936), pp. 286–88.
Geoffrey de Bellaigue, The James A De Rothschild Collection at Waddesdon Manor: Furniture, Clocks and Gilt Bronzes, London, 1974, vol. 1, p. 59.
Gillian Wilson, Decorative Arts in the J. Paul Getty Museum, Malibu, 1977.
J.–P. Samoyault, André-Charles Boulle Et Sa Famille, Geneva, 1979.
Hans Ottomeyer and Peter Pröschel, Vergoldete Bronzen: die Bronzearbeiten des Spätbarock und Klassizismus, Munich, 1986, vol. 1, p. 46 and vol. 2, p. 480.
Alexandre Pradère, French Furniture Makers: the art of the ébéniste from Louis XIV to the Revolution, Malibu, 1989, p. 6.
Peter Hughes, The Wallace Collection: Catalogue of Furniture, London, 1996, pp. 358–59.Jean-Dominique Augarde, Les Ouvriers du Temps, Geneva, 1997, p. 110.
The drum-shaped and tortoiseshell-inlaid case fitted with a circular ebony door mounted with entrelac and foliate-cast ormolu rim, the dial with enamelled Roman chapter ring within an engraved Arabic seconds ring cast with putti in flight, surmounted by a partially draped patinated bronze seated figure of Venus holding aloft a patinated bronze wreath and an ormolu flower garland, her feet resting on a large ormolu conch shell, to her left a patinated bronze standing figure of Cupid with bow and arrow, raised on a shaped base mounted with guilloche-cast ormolu band along the edges, on rounded foliate-cast ormolu feet.
Capturing daily life in the French capital on the eve of the Revolution, the playwright Louis-Sébastien Mercier (1740–1814) observed in the Tableau de Paris:
“Every chimney-piece has its clock; a pity, I think; a dismal fashion. Nothing is more dreary to contemplate than a clock; you watch your life ebbing, the pendulum ticks off each second that is yours only as it passes, and then is yours no more. Clocks are everywhere, in every room you see them, and apparently nobody finds them disturbing, though they mark most mercilessly the flight of the hours; clocks like little temples, or with domes of gilded bronze, or perhaps globes of white marble, with figures running round like an equator… Luxury has run the whole gamut of imagination in devising these superfluous splendours, it can go no further; and since they are quite useless, and not even pleasing to the eye, the waste of money in such futile expenditure is heartbreaking.”
Would Mercier have been equally critical of this glorious timepiece, with its bronze figure of Venus luxuriating against its movement? Attributed to André-Charles Boulle (1642–1732) and dated ca. 1715, the present mantel clock offers a resplendent vision of Love triumphant. The goddess of Love, Venus, rests her foot upon an ormolu shell, an allusion to the mythology of her birth, when she emerged fully formed from the sea. She holds aloft a crown of myrtle leaves, sacred to the goddess, from which spills a sumptuous ormolu garland of flowers, including roses, another of her floral emblems. Beside her is Cupid, who proffers the arrow in his right hand to his mother while clutching a bow in his left. Cherubic companions of the divine pair frolic across the face of the clock itself, holding up the numbers marking the hours.
The bronze figures of Venus and Cupid are situated just to the right of the movement, poised upon a rectangular block veneered on its front and side with panels of tortoiseshell, each framed by a band of ebony, and inset with a narrow and a broader brass stringing; its top is veneered with rosewood. The spring-driven mantel clock itself, whose cylindrical oak case is veneered with tortoiseshell, ebony, and stringings of brass, rests together with the bronze figures upon an asymmetrical shaped base. The base is veneered on its upper surface with rosewood and enclosed round the front and sides by a gilt-bronze border of guilloche molding enclosing flowerheads against a matted ground. Its four gilt-bronze feet embellished with an acanthus pattern.
The dial of the clock is framed by an outer stringing of brass and inlaid in a band of ebony. The gilt-bronze bezel is cast with a continuous pattern of linked circles enclosing foliate rosettes, with single beads between. The bezel is hinged at the left and secured on the right by a swivel catch, with gilt-bronze foliate S-scrolls above and below. Access to the movement is by means of a circular, hinged gilt-bronze plate at the rear of the cylindrical extension, pierced with a circle of sixteen sound holes, alternately large and small. The plate is secured by a swivel catch on the right. The movement is mounted between two brass plates joined by five baluster-shaped brass pillars. It has an eight-day, spring-driven going train and a count-wheel striking train, and strikes the hours and half-hours with a single bell. The pin-wheel escarpment is mounted behind the back plate. The pendulum, which has an operative length of 17.8 cm., has a steel-spring suspension and a lenticular bob, 8cm. in diameter, with a rating nut below.
Individual white enamel plaques showing the hours in Roman numerals in blue are inset into the gilt-bronze dial; the minutes are engraved in Arabic numerals on the outer radius of the dial. Cast and chased rays of light radiate from center of the dial, and are alternately matt and burnished, and six playful putti cast and chased in low relief support the plaques for the odd hour numbers. The two winding holes are just above the gaps between IIII and V and between VII and VIII, while a regulating hand is just set below XII. The hands are made of blued steel, the hour hand ending in three foliate terminations. The romping cherub motif on the dial plate is unusual and may derive from painted decorations in churches in which cherubs are represented bearing religious attributes such as the Instruments of the Passion; similar putti also feature in the ceiling decorations of secular buildings. 
Attribution and Further Versions
Two further examples of this model of clock are known; one in the collection of Baron Rothschild at Waddesdon Manor, Buckinghamshire, and another in the Wallace Collection, London. 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, 22–31 March 1870, lot 273, for 46,500 francs. The earliest mention of the present clock seems to be in the catalogue of the Hope sale in Paris on 4 June 1855, lot 183, in which it was described as “une pendule de Boulle Venus à la coquille en bronze florentin du temps de Louis XIV 14000 francs.” The piece was bought by Baron Achille Seillière, who also purchased Hope’s house in Paris, the 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.
André-Charles Boulle’s acte de délaissement of 1715, in which he made over his property to his four sons, includes an entry that offers critical evidence for attributing this clock to the iconic cabinetmaker:
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…2500I. 
As indicated in the entry, the clock was unfinished at the time and 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 a “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 I. 
Further underscoring the attribution to Boulle, the dial of this clock and the two related versions share the design incorporating flying putti with other clocks by Boulle. These include the Love Triumphing over Time model clock purchased by Nicolas Desmarets (1648–1721), Colbert’s nephew, around 1690–1700, of which there are a number of versions,  and another shown in a drawing of a clock attributed to Boulle in the Musée des arts décoratifs, Paris. 
Another version of the clock seems to have been delivered to Carlton House for the Prince Regent on 9 November 1812.  Described as “A Venus or Shell Clock in Or Moulu, on Green Marble Pedestal,” it was later given away. It is unclear whether that 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. The Venus and Cupid figures on these clocks are occasionally found as separate figures: a bronze Cupid of the same model was acquired by the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, in 1936  and a bronze Venus, seated on a rock amidst seashells, is in the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles.  The latter figure 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 (fig. 1).  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…400I.” 
Some differences between the present clock and the Wallace and Waddesdon versions might be noted. The movement on the present clock is signed by Thuret, who may be Isaac Thuret (died 1706) or most likely his son Jaques-Augustine 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. The movement of the Wallace clock is by Jean Jolly (d. 1751), and the one at Waddesdon has a movement by Pierre Gaudron (active 1691–1728, d. 1745).  The present clock has a long gilt-bronze garland of flowers which starts at the top of the clock and ends behind the right arm of Cupid. This element recurs in the Waddesdon clock, which also has as a spray of gilt-bronze sea-holly by Cupid’s face. The Wallace clock lacks this garland, the bronze figures are moreover gilded, and the positioning of the dial is also different. In the present clock and the Waddesdon version, infants embrace the odd numbers on the dial, whereas on the Wallace clock the even numbers are embraced. The reason seems to be that the Waddesdon clock and the present one have three train movements, with three winding holes, whereas the Wallace has a two train movement, with two holes. The difference in the number of winding holes has occasioned an adjustment in the placing of the dial of the Wallace, which, when examined closely, shows the holes for a three train movement; these were subsequently blocked up and the dial re-drilled for a two-train movement.
Please note that the price and availability of the above work are subject to change without prior notice.
 See for example, Paulus Decker, Fürstlicher Baumeister / Oder: Architectura Civilis, …, 3 Parts, Augsburg, 1711–16, Part I (1711), pls. 37 and 41.
 Quoted Samoyault 1979, p. 66.
 Quoted Samoyault 1979, p. 146.
 For example, on those sold Palais Galliéra, Paris, 11 June 1965, lot 29, and 26 November 1975, lot 76, and Sotheby’s, Monaco, 9 December 1984, lot 1030.
 Musée des Arts Decoratifs, inv. No.A.723 D, illus. Lunsingh Scheurleer, 1936, p. 286.
 Lord Chamberlain’s Office, B. Justham, Receipts, p. 241, quoted De Bellaigue 1974, vol. 1, p. 59.
 Acc. No.A.85–1936.
 Illus. Wilson 1977, pl. 13.
 See Michèle Beaulieu, Robert Le Lorrain (1666–1743) (Neuilly-sur-Seine, 1982), figs. 44–46. Beaulieu dates the Andromeda to ca. 1695–96.
 Quoted in Samoyault 1979, p. 66.
 Illus. De Bellaigue 1974, vol. 1, no. 5.