This splendid mantel clock is based on a full-scale marble chimneypiece, Les Trois Heures de la Vie, representing morning, midday and dusk, created by the celebrated French sculptor Charles Adrien Prosper d’Épinay. Renowned for his marble figures which subtly reinterpret the masterworks of antiquity with the panache of a modern hand, Epinay lived and worked between Paris, London and Rome, creating sculptures for royal courts and noble families throughout Europe and beyond. The full scale work – measuring 217 cm. high – on which the present clock is based is dated to circa 1882, and was included in a sale of works from the artist’s collection at the Hôtel Drouot, Paris, 20-21 April 1885, lot 1: 'Les Trois Heures de la vie. Très beau groupe allégorique de trois femmes, représentant l’heure qui arrive, l’heure présente et l’heure qui s’en va. Prises dans un seul bloc de marbe. Œuvre unique, remarquable de grâce et de conception.’ It sold for the considerable sum of 20,000 francs.
Patricia Roux-Foujols documents reductions of this group which formed clocks in marble, terracotta, plaster, and bronze of various dimensions (P. Roux-Foujols, Prosper d’Épinay: un sculpteur mauricien à la cour des princes, 1996, pp. 98-99). One such marble reduction offered in a sale at the Hôtel Drouot, Paris on 31 May 1886 could possibly be the present lot, as it is signed, and is of nearly identical size to the present mantel clock created by Ferdinand Barbedienne.