This expertly cast and chased gilt bronze clock is an exceptional example of early nineteenth century French enthusiasm for leading figures of early American democracy, such as Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin and George Washington. Made for the American market, this clock was created during the period following George Washington's death in 1799. The surmounted figure of George Washington is based on John Trumbull's 1792 painting Washington Before the Battle of Trenton (Yale University Art Gallery). Engravings after the picture were widely distributed throughout France, making it possible for highly trained French sculptors to create an elegantly fluid three-dimensional figure of the American icon. The eagle surmounting the plinth is modeled to resemble the Great Seal, while the banner below the clock face inscribed "Washington. First in WAR, First in PEACE First in the HEARTS of his COUNTRYMEN" is from the oration given by Major-General Henry Lee at George Washington's funeral and published in early 1800. (See Jonathan Snellenburg, "George Washington in Bronze: A Survey of Memor ial Clocks," Antiques & Fine Art Magazine (Winter 2001)
Recent research by Winterthur graduate student Lara Pascali has reattributed the example in Winterthur's collection, which is virtually identical to the present lot, to the work of Jacques Nicolas Pierre François Dubuc, the elder brother of Jean-Baptiste Dubuc (1743-1819), who is most often associated with the Washington clocks. It was the elder Dubuc whose business address, Rue Michel-le-Comte No. 33, matches that on the dial of both clocks (www.winterthur.org)
While many versions of Washington memorial clocks exist, this particular model represents the upper tier in terms of quality and size. In addition to the example at Winterthur, a nearly identical model is on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Two further nearly identical clocks were sold at Sotheby's New York, October 13, 2000, lot 269 and January 16-17, 1999, lot 709. Similar models of the clock have sold at auction, however, there are differences in the size and details. The smaller versions measure only 15 inches high, depict a more mature likeness of Washington and lack the figural frieze at the base. One such example sold at Christie's New York, June 18, 1998, lot 165.