The Wallace Collection

The Wallace Collection, A Family Collection, A National Museum, An International Treasure House
Mantel clock
  • Mantel clock
  • Jean-Baptiste Lepaute (1727 - 1801) , Movement Maker
  • François-Joseph Belanger (1744 - 1818), Designer
    G. Merlet (active between: c. 1812), Dial Enameller
  • France
  • 1781
  • Gilt bronze, stone, oil paint, enamel, brass, gilt brass and glass
  • Object size: 53 x 56 x 18 cm
  • Inscription: 'Le paute / H.GER Du Roi' Painted
    Inscription: 'G Merlet' Painted
    Inscription: 'mouvement aplique dans / cette Boite faute de tems / pour en faire un qui soit / digne d'elle août 1781' Scratched
    Inscription: 'Perrin / de bre 1823' Scratched
    Inscription: '1914 / H H' Scratched
    Stamp: '725'
    Inscription: '1341' Scratched
    Inscription: 'Richard janvier 1772' Scratched
  • F269
  • Dining Room
Images & Media
Further Reading
  • Exquisitely decorated and chased, this clock is an example of the extraordinary refinement that the art of gilt-bronze had reached in Paris by the last quarter of the eighteenth century. This was clearly an important commission for a very wealthy and very fashionable client.
    The clock is signed by the king’s clock-maker, Jean-Baptiste Lepaute (1727-1801). His workshop was responsible for the movement, while the clock case was the product of various different hands: an architect or designer, a sculptor, a bronze founder, a chaser and a gilder (these last two may have been the same man or at least the same workshop). Once gilded, the case was then handed over to the LePaute workshop, where the clock itself would have been fitted.
    The motifs of the case evoke the Classical world, with Greek-style winged sphinxes, fruit and flower garlands symbolising peace and plenty, and billing doves, the attribute of the goddess Venus. The six medallions on the stone base (painted to represent green porphyry) are mounted in a guilloche-pattern frieze, and each represents one of the six signs of the zodiac for Spring and Summer: Aries, Taurus, Leo, Cancer, Gemini and Virgo. It is still possible to identify the different types of gilding used, with some areas burnished to a brighter finish than others to lend depth and movement, and even different tones, to the gold. Although Lepaute’s involvement is clear, we do not know precisely who made the gilt-bronze case. The superb execution limits the possible contenders to perhaps three or four workshops; the clock has been attributed in the past to Pierre Gouthière (1732-1813), official gilder and chaser to the comte d’Artois (1757-1836), or Pierre-Philippe Thomire (1751–1843) but there is no documentary evidence to support either of these. The chasing technique does not seem to support an attribution to Gouthière, while the same six medallions denoting the signs of the zodiac are found on a later gilt-bronze clock case signed by Thomire (private collection).
    In 1777 d’Artois’ official architect, François-Joseph Bélanger (1744-1818), designed a small ‘maison de plaisance’ for the prince, the aptly-named Pavillon de Bagatelle on the outskirts of Paris. Bélanger was one of the prime exponents of the neo-classical style in architecture and the decorative arts, and everything about Bagatelle, both inside and out, was in the latest possible taste, executed by the group of talented decorators, sculptors and cabinet-makers regularly used by the architect. The walls of the circular salon were decorated with panels of painted and gilded stucco decoration in the Antique style made fashionable by English and French architects such as Robert Adam and Charles-Louis Clérisseau, while the silk curtains and velvet chairs were of ‘English green’. In 1781 Bélanger also designed a clock for the room which reflected this decoration; the Wallace Collection clock, which fits very closely the description of Artois’ clock in Lepaute’s bill, is dated 1781. This, and the fact that there is an almost identical clock in the collection of the Mobilier National in France (it is known that the comte de Provence, d’Artois’ brother, had a clock of the same model) suggests that the Wallace Collection clock may have been the one delivered for Bagatelle.