This vase pendule à dauphins is one of three known examples of this form, each with slight variations and is the only known example still in private hands. Another vase pendule à dauphins which furnished King Louis XVI’s newly built Cabinet des bains at Versailles, bearing date letter X for 1775 and gilt with laurel leaves, was sold in these Rooms on 4 July 2013, lot 22. The other pendule à dauphins is in the Sèvres, Cité de la céramique; it is also gilt by Le Guay, as with the present example, but with oak leaves around the dial and it is recorded in the factory records in 1786. The royal vase-clock and the present lot appear to be the earliest recorded examples of this form, which is first noted in the factory records in 1775. Although the factory records for 1775 are partially incomplete there is a reference in that year to the clockmaker Germain Dubois buying a vase Dauphin with a blue ground for 240 livres. In addition, the ‘Travaux extraordinaire’ (the record of overtime payments) for 1776 record at least six Vase à pendule à dauphins, each described in varying ways. Overtime payments were made to two Répareurs including Bono, who worked on the present vase. Bono is recorded in three separate entries as having received payments for: ‘1. Vase à pendule, Dauphin’ at 24 livres each. It seems highly likely that the present vase-clock is either that referred to as being bought by Germain Dubois in 1775, or one of the three that Bono worked on during 1776.3
Although the decorative elements of the dolphin vase-clock would have fitted perfectly with Louis XVI's Cabinet des bains, the form was not designed specifically for that room as it had been developed earlier. The vase pendule à dauphins is an adaptation of the vase à dauphins, a form which is first mentioned in the Sèvres factory records in 1757. Two vases of this form are in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, and another is in the Metropolitan Museum, New York. The similarity of the vase à dauphins form to the vase à jet d'eau suggests they could have been designed by the same person (both have dolphins spouting jets of water and upper parts formed as fountains), and it has been suggested that the latter was designed by Jean-Claude Chambellan Duplessis, père (c. 1695-1774), the directeur artistique at the Sèvres manufactory. Gilt-bronze clocks made in Paris at the same date and of related form are also known, see Hans Ottomeyer and Peter Pröschel, Vergoldete Bronzen, Die Bronzearbeiten des Spätbarock und Klassizismus, Munich, 1986, no. 3.13.3. Another was with Mallett, London in 1980, see Apollo, May, 1980, p. 8.
Etienne-Henry Le Guay, l’aîné, was a painter and a gilder at Vincennes and Sèvres from 1748 to 1749 and then from 1751 to 1797.
Hector Binney (1919-1986) was the younger son of James Binney and his wife, Lady Marjory, daughter of the 5th Marquess of Ailesbury. He was known as a bon vivant and he travelled extensively throughout Europe. His travels enabled him to amass an impressive collection of furniture, ceramics and works of art. He was particularly drawn to objects that had romantic or historical associations. On succeeding to his family property, he became known as an eccentric conservationist and spoke passionately about his collection of rare conifer trees. His large collection of decorative arts was sold following his death and it included French faience, Vincennes and Sèvres.
1. This royal vase pendule à dauphins appears in the 1787 inventory of clocks in Louis XVI's apartments at Versailles; it was then transferred to the Tuileries in 1792 and was sold during the Revolution. It reappeared in the 1927 sale of the collection of Anthony de Rothschild and subsequently appeared two times at auction before being acquired at Christie's, 4 July 2013, lot 22 (£433,875) by the Chateau de Versailles.
2. The example at Sèvres, Cité de la céramique is on a porcelain foot, as with the present example, and it is illustrated by Marcelle Brunet and Tamara Préaud, Sèvres, Des origines à nos jours, Fribourg, 1978, p. 202, no. 234. It is recorded in the painters' records on 5 February 1786 (Vl’ 3 fo 1) and was delivered to M. Dubuisson on 6 May 1786 (Vy. 10 fo 39 vo.)
3. In addition to Bono, the Répareur Caron is also recorded receiving 24 livres for ‘1. V. Dauphan à pendule’ and Vautrian the Tourneur is also recorded as having received payment for ‘6.Vase. E Dauphine à pendule’ at 10 livres each, at a total cost of 60 livres (see Série F, Cartone F6, no. 35731.4 for all of these references). It is possible that the Répareurs Bono and Caron were working on the same clock so it is hard to be certain exactly how many vase pendule à dauphins were made in 1776 but there are at least six.
4. The form is published by Albert Troude, Choix de Modèles de La Manufacture Nationale de Porcelaines de Sèvres, Paris, 1897, pl. 100, under the name 'vase oeuf anses dauphins'. The vase à dauphins was formerly regarded as having been designed to commemorate the birth of the Dauphin in 1781, see William King, et al., Catalogue of the Jones Collection, Part II, London, 1924, p. 19, no. 145.
5. The Sotheby’s Binney Collection sale catalogue entry for this vase-clock erroneously refers to two additional vase pendule à dauphin in the Victoria and Albert Museum, however these are vases (vase à dauphin) and not clock-vases, see William King et al., ibid., 1924, pl. 21, no. 145. For the example in the Metropolitan Museum, New York, see C.C. Dauterman et al., Decorative Art From the Samuel H. Kress Collection At the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Aylesbury, 1964, pp. 214-215, no. 44, Figs. 162-163. See also the pair of vases from the Property of the late Kaufman T. Keller of Detroit, sold in these Rooms on 30 October 1967, lot 43.
6. Pierre Ennès has also suggested it could have been designed by Falconet, see Rosalind Savill, The Wallace Collection, Catalogue of Sèvres Porcelain, London, 1988, p. 282, note 4. A pair of vases à jet d'eau in the Wallace Collection, London, are illustrated by Savill, ibid., pp. 281-286, Cat. no. C284-5. The form was first recorded in 1765 (possibly to commemorate the future Louis XVI becoming dauphin in 1765), and a design showing the basic outline (later inscribed Vase colonne) is still at Sèvres (R 1, l.3,d.4,f.15bis).