Pendule Borne

circa 1780
Reference #: EF1300

JEAN-ANDRE LEPAUTE (1720-1789) &

Gilt bronze and white marble
Signed Lepaute Hger du Roi

Height: 21 ¼ inches (54 cm.)
Width: 16 inches (41 cm.)
Depth: 7 ½ inches (19 cm.)

Kjellberg, Pendule Française (1997), p. 176, fig. A.

Surmounted by a martial trophy resting on a beaded and egg and dart decorated plinth, the clock case comprises a white enameled convex dial bearing Roman numerals. A beribboned heart issuing floral and foliate trailers ornaments the upper portion of the dial while coiled foliate decorations culminating in bird head motifs complete the design below. Flanking the case are two volute-shaped sections bearing sunflowers, beribboned oak leaves and acorns. The clock rests on a white marble plinth embellished with interlaced vines, a foliate register and disc form ormolu feet.

The signature Lepaute Horloger du Roi corresponds to the business association formed by the brothers Jean-André (1720-1789) and Jean-Baptiste II Lepaute (1727-1801) and was used between 1750 and 1789. It is believed that Jean-André, the son of a locksmith, learned casting and clock making from his father as the upkeep of large clocks in the countryside at this time was entrusted to the locksmiths. By 1740 Jean-André had moved to Paris, and joined by his brother, Jean-Baptiste, soon afterward, was producing clocks for the Crown by 1748. Admitted to the Paris guild as master clock-makers in 1759 and 1766 respectively, they were commissioned to produce clocks for the Chateaux of la Muette, Bellevue, Choisy, as well as the École Militaire, the royal glassworks and the Palais du Luxembourg (a commission which earned the brothers lodgings in that building). By producing only the finest mechanisms and by carefully choosing their case makers, the Lepaute brothers attained the highest reputation. Their experiments in clock design, which included the development of the pendule polycamératique, particularly advanced their standing as clock makers to the King.

For the manufacture of bronze cases they turned to such eminent sculptors as Clodion, Jean-Antoine Houdon, Augustin Pajou and for marquetry cases they employed the celebrated ébénistes Nicolas Petit, Bernard II van Risenburgh and Jean-François Leleu among others. The Lepautes’ clientele belonged to both city and court and included Louis XV, Madame du Barry, the Comtes de Provence and d’Artois, Mesdames Victoire and Adélaïde, the Duc de Bourbon and the Duchess de Mazarin. Outside France, Madame Infante, the Duchesse of Parma, Prince Charles of Lorraine, Ferdinand VI, Charles III, Charles IV of Spain and Queen Louise-Ulrique of Sweden owned examples of their work.

Among the dealers of eighteenth century Parisian art, the Marchands-Merciers-Grossiers-Joailliers dominated the market of luxury goods of which timepieces were an integral component. It is through their intervention, sustained by the incomparable reputation of Parisian technological achievement and luxury, that French clocks were exported. Cherished by the grandest lords of Europe, they were also objects of prestige par excellence, being chosen by international traders and by governments to be sent as gifts to the most influential and far-flung countries.

The present clock, rendered with exceptional quality in bronze casting, proportion of design and superior mechanism is strikingly similar to one, which according to the l’État des Pendules du Roy of 1787, comes from the Chateau of Versailles. Its dial is signed by Caranda à Versailles, and differs only in the design of the trophy at top which bears a quiver and floral wreath in contrast to the helmet and plume surmounting the present piece. It would appear that the case of the latter is perhaps by the same extraordinary case maker whose reputation and ability secured his works a place in the primary royal residence of the French kings at Versailles.

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