Designed in the bold goût a la grec of the mid-1770s and with distinctive figures en arabesques or siren mounts in the manner of Etienne-Maurice Falconet (d. 1791), this clock was probably originally flanked by vases forming a clock-garniture. Closely related vases, with identical siren mounts, were sold from the Alexander Collection, Christie’s New York, 30 April 1999, lot 95. At least two other clocks of the present model are known to exist: one, with movement by Martin, was sold from the collection of Sir George Lindsay Holford, Christie's London, 13-14 July 1927, lot 200; the other, from the collection of Queen Olga of Württemberg (1829-1899), was presented to her lady-in-waiting Princess Schaumburg-Lippe, sold Christie’s London, 13 June 2002, lot 5.
The bold and beautifully chased mounts of the present vase are related to those of the celebrated Saxe-Teschen celadon vase and cover, formerly in the Qizilbash Collection, sold Christie’s Paris, 19 December 2007, lot 803, and then sold from a Private Collection, Christie’s London, 9 July 2015, lot 10. These mounts have generally been attributed to the maître fondeur Jean-Claude-Thomas Duplessis (d. 1783). Son of Jean-Claude Chambellan Duplessis (d. 1774), bronzier and orfèvre du Roi and designer of porcelain at Vincennes and then Sevres, Jean-Claude-Thomas is first mentioned in 1752 when he was assisting his father in making models for the porcelain manufactory at Vincennes. In 1765, he is registered as maître fondeur en terre et sable. His father seems to have been active as a bronze-worker until circa 1763, after which date he does not seem to have had any real workshop. Bronzes made during the mid-1760s may therefore be considered as a collaboration of father and son including, for instance, those for the celebrated Bureau du Roi executed by Jean-François Oeben (d. 1763) and Jean-Henri Riesener (d. 1806) between 1760 and 1769 (S. Eriksen, Early Neo-Classicism in France, London, 1974, pp. 174-175). However, his involvement as a principle designer for the Sèvres manufactory continued until his son also took this on in 1773 and the form of the present vase may therefore already have been designed by him. Their principle clients were some of the most illustrious amateurs of the 18th Century and included, besides Louis XV, Augustin Blondel de Gagny and Laurent Grimod de la Reynière. Vases were a significant part of the oeuvre of Duplessis fils and he published two series of vases in 1775-80 (P. Verlet, Les bronzes dorés français du XVIII siècle, Paris, 1999, p. 415) and the Almanach des Artistes of 1777 lists that he was a ‘bon dessinateur’ and ‘travaille d’apres ses dessins’.
This extraordinary clock was in the possession of the Gorchakov family, a prominent princely family from Moscow, whose illustrious members had various distinguished military careers and many links to the Imperial family. Prince Aleksey (1769-1817) and his brother Prince Andrey (1777-1855), Prince Peter (Pyotr) (1790-1768) and Prince Mikhail (1795-1861) were all Generals with key positions in the Russian army. Prince Alexander Gorchakov (1798-1883), however, had a brilliant career as a diplomat, resulting in his position as Minister of Foreign Affairs and, from 1863, Chancellor of the Russian Empire. Early in his career Prince Alexander worked under Count Nesselrode (1780-1862), Foreign Minister under Alexander I. Gorchakov’s first diplomatic work of importance was the negotiation in 1846 of a marriage between the Grand Duchess Olga and the Crown Prince Charles of Wurttemberg. He remained in Stuttgart for some years as Russian minister and confidential adviser of the Crown Princess. The above-mentioned, related Sèvres clock, had a Wurttemberg provenance, and it is not unlikely that the present example was also a gift from the Queen to her trusted advisor, Prince Alexander.