LA PENDULE A LA DIANE CHASSERESSE
This magnificent mantel clock, of almost unprecedented scale and celebrating that most princely of pursuits, La Chasse, is one of only three recorded examples, all of which have always been associated with a Royal provenance. These comprise:
-The prototype clock, with bleu turquin marble plinth, which was executed by the horloger Robert Robin in 1785 and supplied for the chambre du Roi at the château de Compiègne. This clock is illustrated in P. Verlet, Les Bronzes Dorés Français du XVIIIe Siècle, Paris, 1987, p. 59 and is probably that formerly in the collection of Baron Edmond de Rothschild.
-The Bergsten clock offered here, also with bleu turquin marble plinth and with Inventory marks for the château de Saint-Cloud.
-The third, with verde antico marble base and movement by Pierre-Claude Raguet-Lépine is now in a private collection in Paris (reproduced in Tardy, La Pendule Francaise, Paris, 1974, v. 2, p. 188). According to Tardy, op. cit., this latter clock was commissioned by Marie-Antoinette as a gift to one of her relatives. Although Tardy omits to mention any inventory marks, this clock is almost certainly one and the same with that with movement also by Raguet-Lépine and the mark of the château de Tuileries which was described in 'Trésors des Collections Privées', Exhibition Catalogue, Sotheby's, Paris, 1998.
A fourth clock, also stamped with the Tuileries Inventory mark and of almost identical model but of smaller proportions than the three above (being 31in. high; 30in. wide; 13 3/4in. deep), was sold from the collection of Edouard Chappey in Paris, 29 April 1907, lot 935. Recently with Didier Aaron, this last example has a vert de mer marble base and is inscribed with the date 1792 on the reverse of the enameled dial. Its movement is signed Philipe Morel à Lyon, who flourished in the rue des Augustins, Lyon from 1788.
With the exception of the Compiègne clock, whose commission and subsequent history during the Revolutionary period is succinctly recorded, frustratingly no conclusive documentary evidence has so far come to light to reveal the precise provenance of either of the two remaining clocks, nor indeed for the smaller example from the Chappey sale. What is unequivocal, however, is that both the Bergsten and Tardy clocks (as well as the smaller Chappey example) all display early 19th Century inventory marks for the demeures de la Couronne under Louis XVI - specifically the château de Saint-Cloud and the Palais des Tuileries.
Interestingly, both in the use of bleu turquin marble and in the design of the plinth, with its sunk-panels framing the hunting and martial trophy reliefs - unlike those of the Tardy clock, whose reliefs are just applied onto a single plane - the Bergsten clock is the closest in design to that supplied for Louis XVI at Compiègne. However, Diana is seated in a different pose on the Compiègne clock.
THE HISTORY OF THE MODEL
This model is first recorded on 22 August 1785, when the horloger du Roi Robert Robin was commissioned to supply a clock commemorating La Chasse for the Chambre du Roi at the château de Compiègne.
Executed at the enormous cost of 30,000 livres - a figure noted by Robin himself in his mémoire of 1788 - with the express wish, Que tout soit bien analogue au reste des meubles et raisonné pour le château, it was described as being partie en vert antique et partie doré, with a pull va répondre au lit du Roi.
Unfortunately, Robin did not mention either the bronzier or the ciseleur-doreur responsible for this tour de force, and thus any attribution remains speculative. In view of the superlative quality of both chasing and modelling, as well as the strongly sculptural nature of the design, it relates most closely to the oeuvres of: Pierre-Philippe Thomire (maître in 1772), who is mentioned in the accounts of both the Garde-Meuble and those of Louis XVI from 1784-89; Pierre-François Feuchère (maître in 1763), who also worked
for the Garde-Meuble between 1785-88 and 1788-91; and Jean Hauré (maître in 1782), who worked as a sculpteur for the Garde-Meuble between 1785-88, amongst others.
Both Thomire and Feuchère continued to work for the Garde-Meuble during both the Imperial and Restauration periods and were certainly often commissioned to repeat particularly favoured models for the appartements of the Royal family even during the 18th Century. This facet of Royal patronage, even of the very grandest models of bronzes d'ameublement, is perhaps best illustrated in the context of La Chasse by the celebrated chenets originally supplied by the marchand-fondeur Quentin-Claude Pitoin (1770-1806) for Madame Du Barry's use in the salon octagone at Fontainebleau in 1772. Following the death of Louis XV in 1774, Madame Du Barry moved the chenets to Louveciennes, and so in 1775 Louis XVI commissioned a further pair to be made for his bibliothèque at Versailles. In fact, the model was ordered several more times for Louis XVI and members of his immediate family, and this included another pair for the salon des jeux at Compiègne, almost adjacent to Chambre du Roi in which was placed the prototype Pendule à la Diane Chasseresse. Interestingly, Pitoin's model of chenet was included in the 1829 sale of L.P. Feuchère père's moulds, the copyright for the model being retained by the vendor - could it be that Feuchère also produced the Bergsten Diana clock in the 1820s as part of the extensive furnishing campaign undertaken at various Royal châteaux after the restoration of the monarchy?
An unpublished drawing by the architect Jean-Demosthène Dugourc, probably the preliminary design for this model but with minor variations in the execution of the plinth and bocage, is now in the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris, and is illustrated above.
Following the Revolution, the Compiegne clock was comprehensively described in the Inventory of the Horlogerie particuliere du cydevant Roi (Louis XVI) drawn up by Robin for the Commissaire Général on 6 March 1793. Listed as No. 1, the description read:
Une pendule representant le Repos de Diane après la Chasse. Cette pendule est composée d'un socle de marbre bleu de turquin porté des pieds de sanglier, ornés de bas reliefs annalogues à la Chasse, sur lequel est une terrasse de bronze en ver antique garni d'arbres, buissons, etc., au milieu desquelles est un rochet de marbre bleu de turquin sur lequel est ajusté un sé de vigne rempant et entournant une lunette dans laquelle est le mouvement. Des deux cotés sont des grouppes, dont l'un est un cerf pri par des chiens, et l'autre un sanglier en arret par des autres chiens qui le dechirent. - Cette pendule etoit destinée pour Compiègne et actuelement pour le musée. Est de M. Robin. Porte environ 4 pds de large et 2 pds et demie de haut au moins. Doit estre et etoit il y a peu de jours aux Thuilleries.
THE BERGSTEN COLLECTION
The Bergsten Collection of Old Master Pictures, European Furniture, Works of Art and Classical Sculpture was formed between 1900 and 1950 by Karl Bergsten (1869-1953), known as Consul General Bergsten, who furnished his palatial house in Stockholm in the manner of an 18th Century Grand Tourist. Amongst the exceptional European furniture he collected, a Riesener secretaire, a commode by Garnier and a pair of tables from the Palazzo Borghese were sold at Christie's, London, 23 June 1999, lots 134, 50 and 100 respectively.