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A LOUIS XVI ORMOLU STRIKING TABLE CLOCK WITH CALENDAR, MOONPHASE, EQUATION OF TIME AND TERRESTRIAL 'SPHERE MOUVANTE'
A LOUIS XVI ORMOLU STRIKING TABLE CLOCK WITH CALENDAR, MOONPHASE, EQUATION OF TIME AND TERRESTRIAL 'SPHERE MOUVANTE'
A LOUIS XVI ORMOLU STRIKING TABLE CLOCK WITH CALENDAR, MOONPHASE, EQUATION OF TIME AND TERRESTRIAL 'SPHERE MOUVANTE'
8 More
A LOUIS XVI ORMOLU STRIKING TABLE CLOCK WITH CALENDAR, MOONPHASE, EQUATION OF TIME AND TERRESTRIAL 'SPHERE MOUVANTE'
11 More
These lots have been imported from outside the EU … Read more THE PRINCE DE CONTI'S 'SPHERE MOUVANTE' CLOCK
A LOUIS XVI ORMOLU STRIKING TABLE CLOCK WITH CALENDAR, MOONPHASE, EQUATION OF TIME AND TERRESTRIAL 'SPHERE MOUVANTE'

JEAN-MATTHIEU MABILLE AND MARTIN BAFFERT, PARIS, CIRCA 1770-1775

Details
A LOUIS XVI ORMOLU STRIKING TABLE CLOCK WITH CALENDAR, MOONPHASE, EQUATION OF TIME AND TERRESTRIAL 'SPHERE MOUVANTE'
JEAN-MATTHIEU MABILLE AND MARTIN BAFFERT, PARIS, CIRCA 1770-1775
CASE: with eagle finial, above the sphere on a circular base chased with swirling clouds, the openwork glazed drum supported by acanthus-capped volutes, the square section base with glazed front and rear dials, glazed hinged sides, all with stiff-leaf borders, on a stepped plinth with relief panel of putti engaged in the study of science, the sides and rear with further foliate and trophy panels within writhen borders, raised on lobed bun feet; the eagle possibly earlier and re-used
DIALS: the front with white enamel 8 ¼ inch dial with gilt Roman hours and Arabic quarter minutes and signed 'Jn. Mu. Mabille / A PARIS', further dot engraved beneath the dial plate 'MABILLE', with pierced gilt hour hand, pierced gilt solar time hand with sun symbol, blued steel hand indicating mean time and seconds hand; a rectangular aperture below to read the year, a contemporary disc currently fitted, reading from 1998 to 2007; to the lower left an enamel dial with months and days; to the lower right the days of the week with corresponding symbols; viewable through the right hand side glass an enamel dial for setting terrestrial and planetary functions of the sphere; the rear with painted brass disc showing phases of the moon and age of moon; viewable through the left hand side a further silvered brass calendar disc with months, days, zodiac symbols and pierced with holes to represent the constellations
MOVEMENT: the substantial brass plates joined by five cylindrical pillars with twin barrels for going and striking trains, the backplate signed 'Mabille A Paris', striking the hours and half hours on a single bell, the escapement of Graham dead-beat type, the pivots with blued steel endplates, the adjustable brass pallet frame is set by removable steel pallets, the escape wheel screwed to the arbor, double twelve-hour count-wheel with star-pierced centre, the pendulum crutch is fitted with micrometer adjustment and hinged fork for setting in beat, the later half-second pendulum with brass bob numbered '3580'; the striking train barrel driving the equation of time with kidney cam and all calendar functions; the going train barrel also driving the planetary and terrestrial functions with visible motionwork to the glazed drum driving the six planetary movements via six co-axial arbors
SPHERE: signed to the underside of the socle below 'cette piece a ete faitte par J. t. M th. Mabille horloger', mounted on its ecliptic axis, the outer fixed sphere is composed of the two colures; each engraved ‘COLURE DES SOLSTICES’ (twice), 'ÉTOILES FIXES’ (twice), ‘Pôle de L’Ecliptique’, ‘Pôle Antarctique’, and ‘Pôle Arctique’, an enamel disc representing the pole star is attached to the arctic pole, the second colure is engraved ‘COLURE DES ÉQUINOXES’ (twice) and ‘ÉTOILES FIXES’ (twice), both further ornamented with stars, the ecliptic, in two bands; the upper engraved with a scale of 360º, numbered from 5º to 30º every 5º, it is decorated with cartouches containing the symbols of the zodiac painted in gold against a dark blue ground, the lower is graduated with a calendar scale of 365 days, divided every day, numbered from 5 to the last day of each month every five days, the sphere also with inclined equator engraved ‘HORISON [sic] UNI / VERSEL’, the interior with a vertical axle, with sun to the centre circled by six concentric rings representing the orbits of the known planets
with winding key, later case key and beat setting key
33 ¾ in. (88.3 cm.) high; 11 ¾ in. (29.9 cm.) wide; 11 ¾ in. (29.9 cm.) deep
Provenance
Louis-Francois de Bourbon, Prince de Conti (1717-1776) until sold:
L. Remy, Paris, 'Catalogue Des Tableaux, Desseins, Terres-cuites, Marbres, Bronzes, Pierres gravées, Medailles, et autres objets precieux de Monseigneur Le Prince de Conty', 6 June 1777, lot 2020, sold 3,500 livres, unidentified buyer 'Clos'.
Baron Gustave de Rothschild (1829-1911), and by descent.
With Galerie Kugel, Paris, 2002.

Literature
A. Janvier, Etrennes chronometriques pour L’an 11, Paris, 1810.
A. Janvier, Recueil de machines composées et executées par Antide Janvier, Paris, 1928.
H.C. King, Geared to the Stars: The Evolution of Planetariums, Orreries and Astronomical Clocks, Bristol, 1978, p. 283.
P. Wheeler (ed.), Princely Taste: Treasures from Great Private Collections, Israel Museum, Jerusalem, 1995, p. 130.
G. Wilson et al., European Clocks in the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, 1996, pp. 92-101.
J.D. Augarde, Les Ouvriers du Temps, Geneva, 1996, p. 365.
J. Edwards, 'The Conti Sales of 1777 and 1779 and their Impact on the Parisian Art Market', Studies in Eighteenth-Century Culture, Volume 39, 2010, pp. 77-110.
A. Kugel, Spheres; The Art of the Celestial Mechanic, Paris, 2002, pp. 184-191.


Exhibited
Israel Museum, Jerusalem, Princely Taste: Treasures from Great Private Collections, 1995.
Galerie J. Kugel, Paris, Spheres; The Art of the Celestial Mechanic, 18 September - 23 November 2002, exhibit no. S7.
Special Notice

These lots have been imported from outside the EU for sale using a Temporary Import regime. Import VAT is payable (at 5%) on the Hammer price. VAT is also payable (at 20%) on the buyer’s Premium on a VAT inclusive basis. When a buyer of such a lot has registered an EU address but wishes to export the lot or complete the import into another EU country, he must advise Christie's immediately after the auction.

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Lot Essay

This spectacular clock, a tour de force of horological and scientific complexity, was made for Louis-François de Bourbon, Prince de Conti, a cousin of Louis XV. It was celebrated as a technological marvel not only in the 18th Century but also in the Empire period, when it was admired by the renowned horloger Antide Janvier.
THE PRINCE DE CONTI
Born in Paris on 13 August 1717, Conti was the son of Louis Armand de Bourbon, Prince de Conti and Louise Elizabeth de Condé. At the age of fourteen he married Louise Diane d'Orléans, daughter of Philippe duc d'Orléans and Françoise Marie de Bourbon, on 22 January 1732 at Versailles. She died giving birth to their only son. Following military campaigns in Bohemia, Italy, Germany and the Netherlands he was considered as a candidate to the throne of Poland. Although he did not secure this he remained a confidante of Louis XV until a falling out with the royal mistress Madame de Pompadour. Conti was then in opposition to the government and exiled from the court but secured a priviledged retirement in his role as Grand Prior of the Knights of the Order of Malta, residing at the Palais du Temple in Le Marais. His enclave at the Temple became a centre for social life and his art collecting habits were lavish. A particular interest in astronomy and horology saw him commission not only the present clock, but also a magnificent planisphere by Fortier, the case attributed to Jean-Pierre Latz (now in the J. Paul Getty Museum). His fame also rests on the Romanée vineyard he acquired in 1760 to which he added his last name: Romanée-Conti which remains one of the most prized wines in the world.
Following his death on 2 August 1776 at the age of 58, his son inherited considerable debts which forced the auction of 1777. In this legendary sale, conducted by Remy, the clock realised the highest price, more than double that of the Fortier planisphere. The catalogue describes the clock:

‘2020. A clock surmounted by a moving sphere, executed after the tables of MM. Cassini and de La Lande. Diverse moving spheres have previously been seen and justly approved by the greatest connoisseurs. The particular merit of this example is that it contains within a much smaller space all the same objects and the same details, and produces, particularly as concerns the Moon, effects which are truer and more exact. There can be no greater precision than that which is found in this piece, whose mechanism has commanded the attention of all the savants who have examined it. The artistry which prevails in all the particulars of its execution, the delicacy and finish of its workmanship, have equally won the approbation of lovers of art.’ (‘2020. Une pendule surmontée d’une sphère mouvante, exécutée d’après les tables de MM. Cassini & de La Lande. On a vu jusqu’ici diverses sphères mouvantes justement approuvées des plus habiles Connoisseurs. Le mérite particulier de celle-ci est de renfermer dans un espace beaucoup plus resserré tous les mêmes objets, les mêmes détails, & de produire sur-tout par rapport à la lune, des effets plus vrais & plus exacts. La précision ne peut être portée plus loin qu’elle se trouve l’être dans cette pièce dont le méchanisme a fixé l’attention des Savants qui l’ont examinée. Le goût qui regne dans toutes les parties de son exécution, la délicatesse & le fini de la main d’oeuvre, ont pareillement réuni les suffrages des Amateurs de l’art.’).

Following the French Revolution the clock was with the famed clockmaker Antide Janvier (1751-1835), probably as a seized item and entrusted to him for adjustment and restoration. In his Etrennes chronométriques pour l’an 11 (Paris, 1810) concerning the methods of calculating wheels, Janvier mentions the present mechanical sphere in laudatory terms: ‘The numbers employed in the planetary clock made by Mabille for the Prince de Conti, were calculated with greater care than those of Passemant, by Baffert, clockmaker, employing the method of Camus (Cours de mathématique, volume IV, p. 399)’ (‘Les nombres employés dans la pendule planétaire, exécutée par Mabille pour le prince de Conti, furent calculés avec plus de soins que ceux de Passemant, par Baffert, horloger, en employant la méthode de Camus (Cours de mathématique, tome IV, p. 399)’).

The clock was then in the collection of Baron Gustave Samuel de Rothschild and remained with the family until the late 20th century.

LA SPHÈRE MOUVANTE
The sphère mouvante or orrery is a mechanical device for portraying the relative motions of the sun, moon and Earth and sometimes, as in this instance, the planets. Among the first known examples was that of circa 1710 by George Graham (1673-1751). A subsequent machine made in 1716 by John Rowley came into the possession of Charles, 4th Earl of Orrery and subsequently the instrument was named (in English) in honour of its owner.
The orbital periods and planetary movements of the Conti clock are taken from tables devised by the astronomers de La Lande and J. Cassini, (Eléments d'Astronomie: tables astronomiques du Soleil, de la Lune, des planètes, des étoiles fixes, et des satellites de Jupiter et de Saturne, Paris, 1740) and wheelwork calculated by Charles-Etienne-Louis Camus. Camus, in his 1749 work Cours de mathématique, details the teeth of clockwork gears and pinions necessary for obtaining a wheel with an annual average revolution of 365 days and 49 minutes, and a synodical revolution of the Moon of 29 days, 12 hours, 44 minutes, 3 seconds, and 12 tierce.

During the 18th Century a number of mechanical planetaria were devised and constructed, often by clockmakers, such as Jacques-Thomas Castel’s clock of 1763 (Anonymous sale, Christie’s, London, 7 July 2011, lot 44) and Conti’s planisphere clock by Alexandre Fortier of circa 1745-49 (Wilson, op. cit.).

Greatly admired in its day as the ultimate creation of the clockmaker's art, the sphère mouvante was also a manifestation of the spirit of the Enlightenment. It must have given the 18th-century savant enormous pleasure to create a clockwork mechanism that could accurately mimic the motions of the Heavens, and in doing so bring to visible fruition the 16th and 17th-century revolution in astronomy brought about by Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo and Newton.

JEAN-MATTIEU MABILLE
Mabille (1734–1801) was apprenticed to Michel-Victor Gaultier (1753) and before 1773 was an ouvrier libre in Saint-Germain-des-Prés. He was on the jury entrusted with developing the new time system of the Revolution (1793). Initially he made only movements and worked for Couppy, Lecomte and Verieux, the marchand-mercier Antoine Magnien and the gilder M.F. Noel, subsequently selling pieces under his own name in the final years of the ancien régime and also used clock cases by Antoine Foullet and François Vion. After the Revolution he supplied movements to Pierre-Philippe Thomire.

MARTIN BAFFERT
Baffert (active in Paris during the third quarter of the 18th century, d. after 1779), an ouvrier libre, resided with his wife Marie-Jeanne de La Haye in the Quinze-Vingts quartier. In addition to this mechanical sphere for the Prince de Conti, his name also appears on the month-going floor-standing orrery clock made by Jacques-Thomas Castel (1710-72) later owned by Baron Mayer Amschel de Rothschild (1818-74) and subsequently the Earls of Rosebery, at Mentmore Towers (Anonymous sale; Christie’s, London, 7 July 2011, lot 44). He used clock cases by Fremont and Jourdan. He was declared insolvent and went bankrupt on 25 October 1773, at which time he owed 730 livres to Mabille.

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