• Christies auction house James Christie logo

    Sale 11628


    19 April 2016, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 200



    Price Realised  


    Surmounted by a glazed globe enclosing an orrery and decorated with swirling clouds, over a pierced foliate-cast case centered with a white enamel dial with Roman hours and Arabic minutes, fleur-de-lis half hour markers and signed COÜET/A PARIS, pierced gilt hands and blued steel center seconds hand, the enamel bezel with signs of the zodiac, four apertures to the trunk below showing day, date, month and year above the moon-phase arch with age of the moon to the border, the substantial calendar movement signed to the back-plate Chles Coüet Elève de Breguet, with grille sides, on foliate-clasped cabriole legs headed with relief medallions emblematic of the Four Seasons, on splayed acanthus-cast feet and shallow scrolled plinth

    84 5/8 in. (215 cm.) high, 39 ½ in. (100 cm.) wide, 25 ½ in. (60 cm.) deep

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    The present clock is an extraordinary replica of the iconic astronomical clock designed by Jacques Caffiéri (1678-1755) with Philippe II Caffiéri (1714-1774), the engineer Claude-Siméon Passemant (1702-1769) and clockmaker Louis Dauthiau (1730-1809). The mechanism was made in 1749 and the sculptural rococo case was completed in 1753. When the Duc de Chaulnes presented the clock to Louis XV at the Château de Choisy on 10 October 1753 he described it in his memoires as ‘un miracle de science’. (P. Kjellberg, op. cit. p. 162). In January 1754 it was moved to a room in Louis XV's private apartments at Versailles and henceforth known as the cabinet à pendule. A masterpiece of clock making combined with an exceptional case, it was technological wonder of the day and a testament to the king's scientific interests in the mechanical arts.


    A replica of the Passemant astronomical clock was commissioned by the 4th Marquess of Hertford and is recorded in the collection of his Paris apartment at 2 rue Laffitte. The rue Laffitte apartment subsequently passed to his illegitimate son Sir Richard Wallace, then to Lady Wallace and in turn to their secretary John Murray Scott who bequeathed it to Victoria, Lady Sackville, wife of the 3rd Baron Sackville of Knole. Thereafter the collection was sold en bloc to the art dealer Jacques Seligmann who resold it piecemeal after 1916, often to museums and collectors in the United States. The whereabouts of the replica of the Passemant astronomical clock is not known after leaving 2 rue Laffitte, and assumed lost. It’s identification as the present clock is a major rediscovery.

    The present clock can be identified as the replica at 2 rue Laffitte. A magazine article by A. F. Morris for The Connoisseur in 1910 lists at 2 rue Laffitte a clock of the Passement type from Versailles and identifies the distinguishing feature of the present example - the addition of a shallow stand: ‘replica of the monumental clock, the movement by Passement, made by Dauthiau, and encased in a triumph of J. and P. Caffieri’s skill, executed from the designs of the brothers Slodtz. The original is in the Palace of Versailles; the copy is exact, but boasts the addition of a shallow stand.’ (A. F. Morris., op. cit. p. 222).  Inventories of 2 rue Laffitte in 1871, 1890 and 1912 also identify the replica of the Caffiéri astronomical clock:

    1871 - ‘Dans la bibliotheque éclairée par deux fenêtres sur la rue Laffitte: No. 601 Régulateur modèle rocaille en bronze doré surmonté d’une sphere planétaire placee dans une sphère en verre prisé quinze cents fr.’ (p.26).

    1890 - ‘Bibliotheque éclairée par deux fenêtres sur la rue Laffitte: No. 21 Régulateur bronze doré de Gouët [sic] 2000 [francs]’.

    1912 –‘Bibliothèque - Horloge monumentale style Louis XV et bronze doré – cadran orné d’émaux aux signes de Zodiaque, signé Goet à Paris et surmontée d’une sphere – prisée deux mille francs’. (P. Hughes, The Wallace Collection, Vol. III, p. 1544).

    This specifically compares to the present clock with its outer dial enameled with signs of the Zodiac. The present clock is signed to the dial ‘Couët à Paris’ and the movement ‘Chles Couët Elève de Breguet', whereas the rue Laffitte inventory refers to the signature ‘Goet’ – however it can be surmised that this is a misprint or mistaken reference to Couët. Interestingly the name Charles Couët also links the present clock to Lord Hertford as Couët also produced the clock which surmounts the copy of the bureau du roi which remains in the Wallace Collection (no. 204). A student of master maker Abraham-Louis Breguet (the mechanisms of both the present clock and the clock to the bureau du roi are marked elève de Breguet), two clockmakers by the name of Couët are recorded in Paris during the first half of the 19th century (Tardy, Dictionnaire des Horlogers Francais, Paris, 1981, part I, p. 142).

    The shallow stand to the present lot is a very distinctive feature which further strengthens the case for this being the Hertford clock. It also distinguishes it from other copies made later in the 19th century which lack its distinctive stand and dial. It is possible that the stand was added for strength or replicates a lost element of the original clock which is described as originally having a kind of balustrade: ‘it is placed on a white marble pedestal which seems to lack something; we see on the marble surface holes that have been drilled for nails or staples. The clock was originally surrounded by a railing in gilt bronze which has been lost after 1789’ (J. Guiffrey & M. Leloir, Les Caffiéri Sculpteurs et Fondeurs-Ciseleurs. Paris, 1877, p. 80).


    The original Passemant clock was excluded from the revolutionary sales and remained at Versailles until 1797 when it was moved to Paris. In 1800 it was entrusted to Antide Janvier, a former clockmaker to the King, to make repairs to the movement. Unfortunately, Janvier went bankrupt and the clock was not repaired until the end of the Restauration period when Louis Philippe returned it to its rightful place in the cabinet à pendule at Versailles in 1833, where it remains to this day.

    Lord Hertford was acquainted with the court of Emperor Napoleon III, having served on the judging committee for the Paris Exposition universelle of 1855 afterwhich he was made a Commander of the Legion of Honor ‘pour encouragements donnés aux beaux-arts’. He is also known to have dined as a guest of the Emperor at Fontainbleau. Hughes speculates that this privileged position at court must have enabled Lord Hertford to secure the rights to replicate the bureau du roi Louis XV and no doubt other pieces of French Royal furniture including the Passemant astronomical clock. Writing of the Emperor’s stay at Compiègne, The Times noted on 23 October 1856: ‘The four favourties are, two Ministers, MM. Fould and Vaillant, an ambassador, Lord Cowley; and Lord Hertford, an old friend of the Emperor’s, and known to him at the time of his residence in England’ (P. Hughes, ‘Replicas’, p. 58).

    Lord Hertford’s copy of the bureau du roi was almost certainly made in the 1850s by Carl Dreschler and is believed to have cost him £3000, an enormous amount of money at the time. Carl Dreschler was the foreman for Charles Crozatier, sculpteur and fondeur of bronze. Dreschler used Crozatier’s expertise to take the molds and make the bronzes for Lord Hertford’s copy of the bureau du roi (C. Mestdagh, ‘Les copies à l’ère des premières Expositions universelles: les œuvres de Dasson et de Beurdeley, un xviiie qui continue de vivre?’, Bulletin du Centre de recherche du château de Versailles, 2015, http://crcv.revues.org/13481). Furthermore Dreschler is recorded to have been the most skilful ciseleur of bronze in Crozatier’s workshop and as having worked almost solely for Lord Hertford (C. Mestdagh, L'Ameublement d'art français., op. cit. p. 78).

    Interestingly the link to Crozatier and Dreschler is referenced by Henry Dasson is his résumé for the 1878 Paris Exhibition which details that the business was founded in 1825 by Mr. Crozatier, continued in 1855 by Mr. Drecheler [sic], his foreman, until 1 January 1867 when Henry Dasson took over (C. Mestdagh, op. cit., Note 16). From this it can be deduced that Henry Dasson bought the bronze master models for the bureau du roi enabling him to copy it. The bureau du roi by Henry Dasson was shown at the 1878 Paris Exhibition and subsequently bought by Lady Ashburton.

    This is relevant to the Passemant astronomical clock because Charles Crozatier, ‘sculpteur-Fondeur-Ciseleur’, had perfected the bronze copy and reduction process and received notable commissions to replace many statues of Louis XIV, XV and XVI which had been destroyed during the revolution – including a commission from Louis XVIII to replicate the equestrian statue of Louis XIV after the model by Cartellier, at Versailles. That Crozatier and Dreschler were of sufficient pedigree to be granted permission to recast Royal bronzes and to replicate the bureau du roi, suggests it is credible to also attribute to them the Hertford copy of the Passemant astronomical clock.

    In its replication, numerous drawings, measurements and ‘presses’ or molds would have been taken from the original. We attribute the present clock to Crozatier and Dreschler as the original copy made for Lord Hertford, however later in the 19th century the bronze master molds would have passed to other ébénistes and other copies of the clock are recorded, including one dated 1883 by Alfred Beurdeley (Vente Beurdeley, 6-9 May 1895, lot 37; see C. Mestdagh, L'Ameublement d'art français., op. cit. fig. 91., p. 97) and more than one by François Linke. In the same way Lord Hertford’s copy of the bureau du roi enabled subsequent copies to be made – the aforementioned version by Henry Dasson, thereafter when the Dasson workshops closed, by Alfred Beurdeley and in turn, when Beurdeley ceased production, copies were made by François Linke and Zwiener-Jansen Successeur.

    Identifying the present clock as the first copy made for Lord Hertford makes it all the more important in the history of furniture. It is not merely an exquisitely-rendered replica and tribute to Lord Hertford’s connoisseurship, but also an embodiment of one of the guiding principles of the Wallace Collection – an appreciation for the French furniture and la gloire du roi.


    Probably commissioned by Richard Seymour-Conway, 4th Marquess of Hertford KG (1800–1870), for 2 rue Laffitte, Paris.
    Sir Richard Wallace, 1st Baronet (1818–1890).
    John Murray Scott (1847-1912).
    Victoria Sackville-West, Baroness Sackville (1862–1936), the contents of 2 rue Laffitte, Paris, sold to Jacques Seligmann, 1914.
    Acquired by the present owner from Marshall Galleries, Los Angeles, circa 1996.

    Pre-Lot Text

    Property From a Private West Coast Collection


    A. F. Morris, ‘Sir John Murray Scott’s Collection in the Rue Laffitte, Paris, Part II’, The Connoisseur, XXIX, 1911, pp. 215-22.
    P. Hughes, ‘Replicas of French Furniture made for the 4th Marquess of Hertford’, Antologia di Belle Arti, 31-32, 1987, pp. 58-59.
    P. Hughes, The Wallace Collection, Vol. I., London, 1996, p. 37 and Vol. III, p. 1544
    J.-D. Augarde, Les ouvriers du temps, Antiquorum, 1996, pp. 244-247.
    P. Kjellberg, Encyclopédie de La Pendule Française, du Moyen Age au XXeme Siècle, Les Editions de l'Amateur, Paris, 1997, pp. 160-162.
    C. Mestdagh, L'Ameublement d'art français: 1850-1900, Paris, 2010, p. 78