D. Alcouffe, A. Dion-Tenenbaum, A. Lefébure, Furniture Collections in the Louvre, Vol. I, Dijon, 1993, pp. 102-105
J-D. Augarde, Les Ouvriers du Temps, Paris, 1996, p. 341
G. de Bellaigue, James A. de Rothschild Collection, Catalogue I, London, 1974, pp. 48-50 and 66-71 (p.69 for female figure)
C. Dreyfus, French Furniture in the Louvre, 1921, pl. 13
W. Edey, French Clocks in North American Collections, The Frick Collection, New York, 1982, pp. 45-46
P. Hughes, French Eighteenth-Century Clocks and Barometers in the Wallace Collection, London, 1994, pp. 18-19 and 30-31
C. Jagger, Royal Clocks, London, 1983, pp. 184-185
P. Kjellberg, Encyclopédie de la Pendule Française, Paris, 1997, p. 53
R. Plomp, Early French Pendulum Clocks, 1658-1700, known as Pendules Religeuses, Schiedam, 2009, p. 77
Tardy, French Clocks, Vol. I, Paris, 1981, pp. 153, 211, 254 and 255
G. Wilson, French Eighteenth-Century Clocks in the J. Paul Getty Museum Collection, Los Angeles, 1976, pp. 22-23
LEVASSEUR AND THE RENEWED FASHION FOR BOULLE: A POSSIBLE COMMISSION BY THE MARCHAND JULLIOT
While no stamp of an ébéniste has been found on the distinctive neo-classical plinth, this pedestal clock, incorporating Louis XIV elements and designed in the fashionable revival of Boulle furniture, clearly reflects the oeuvre of Etienne Levasseur, one of the foremost ébénistes of under Louis XVI.
Like many of his contemporaries, Levasseur collaborated extensively with marchands-merciers such as Claude-François Julliot (1727-1794) who had mastered the art of 'modernising' Louis XIV pieces into furniture 'au goût du jour'. As Alexandre Pradère admirably revealed in his introductory essay to volume III of the Wildenstein catalogue [see 'The Wildenstein Collection', Christie's, London, 14-15 December 2005], these new forms reflected the goût du jour for cabinet furniture in the 'antique' taste associated with Boulle, albeit a more modern interpretation to fit the most fashionable of Louis XVI interiors.
The nouvelle vogue for Boulle furniture reached its zenith in the 1770s, with every important auction catalogue including a section dedicated to 'meubles précieux de Boule le père' or 'genre de Boule' and Boulle furniture reaching significant prices. The fact that so many of these Louis XIV pieces were successfully re-sold more than a half century later illustrates the nouvelle vogue for Boulle furniture at the end of the Ancien Régime and the correlative need for such ébénistes as Levasseur, Philippe-Claude Montigny, Jean-Louis Faizelot Delorme, René Dubois, Joseph Baumbauer, Adam Weisweiler and Nicolas-Pierre Séverin to re-fit, refurbish and restore or 'rejuvenize' these earlier Boulle pieces.
Levasseur (1721-1798) learned his craft with the sons of André-Charles Boulle, probably from A-C. Boulle the younger (1685-1745) or Charles-Joseph Boulle (d. 1754), and by 1765 was established as a privileged craftsman in the faubourg Saint-Antoine, at a shop known as au Cadran bleu. Levasseur was made maître-ébéniste on 2 April 1767 and could count among his patrons the King's aunts, Mesdames Adelaide and Victoire at Bellevue as well as rich collectors such as the fermier-général, Mulot de Pressigny. Levasseur specialized in copying and repairing Boulle furniture and his stamp appears on many Louis XIV pieces.
The style, construction and execution of this pedestal clock are entirely consistent with this fashion and explain the appearance of Louis XIV mounts on Louis XVI marquetry and ebony-veneered surfaces. It is conceivable that the clock was originally intended to surmount a cabinet-bibliothèque and traces of some modification to the base of the upper clock case support this theory. As is discussed further below the female figure crowning the upper clock case might in fact be the work of Charles Cressent and while contemporary to André-Charles Boulle's clock case it is most probable that this is a Louis XVI adaptation under the direction of Levasseur. The ormolu relief plaque decorating the parquetry-covered door also predates the Louis XVI case and can be attributed to André-Charles Boulle himself, while it is not clear whether the mount might have been taken from Boulle's armoire or plinth originally supporting this clock.
CLOCK CASES BY ANDRÉ-CHARLES BOULLE
Boulle clock cases of closely related design (arched and waisted above a rectangular plinth section) may be seen in the Wallace Collection (see Hughes, 1994, p. 31), the Rothschild Collection at Waddesdon Manor (see de Bellaigue, 1974, p. 49), the Musée du Louvre (see Tardy, 1981, p. 211), in Kjellberg (1997, p. 53) and in the British Royal Collection (see Jagger, 1983, p. 185). An example by Le Bon (with replaced dial) is recorded in the Musée des Antiquités in Rouen (see Tardy, p. 153). As with the present clock, these are mounted to the front with a figure of recumbent Father Time. To the top of the other cases is a figure of Cupid, holding Time's scythe. The allegorical concept represents Love triumphing over Time. It comes from a woodcut by Niccolò Vicentino (active 1510-1550) reprinted by Andrea Andreani in 1608 and based on a now obliterated fresco by Pordenone on the façade of the Palazzo d'Anna on the Grand Canal in Venice. In the woodcut, formerly attributed to Ugo da Carpi (c.1480-c.1530), Love seizes Time's scales rather than the scythe (see Hughes, 1994). A drawing by André-Charles Boulle (1642-1732) of a clock design based on Vicentino's woodcut is in the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris (see Hughes, 1994 and Plomp, 2009). The figure of Time, designed by François Girardon (1628-1715) also resembles the principal figure of his basin of Saturn (Time) at Versailles of 1672-7 (see Hughes, 1994). Moreover, in the inventory taken after Boulle's death in 1732 'a box containing models of the clock of Mr Desmarais with recumbent Time by Mr Girardon' is mentioned (Plomp, 2009, citing J.P. Samoyault, André-Charles Boulle et sa Famille, Geneva, 1979).
The present clock case differs in having a female figure, apparently Diana, to its top. An identical figure may be seen a boulle-work cartel clock signed by Gourdain at Waddesdon Manor. The case is attributed to Charles Cressent (1685-1768). It is suggested that the model for the bronzes post-dates 1722, with the clock itself having been made between 1724-1744 (see de Bellaigue, 1974, p. 71). It seems likely therefore that when the present clock was remodelled in the latter part of the 18th Century its Cupid finial was replaced with a grander female finial of approximately contemporary manufacture by Cressent.
Clocks of this form, essentially an evolution of the tête de poupée design of the late 17th Century, exist both in mantel form (see the Wallace Collection, Waddesdon Manor and Kjellberg) and as clocks on pedestals (see Tardy, but also the Wallace Collection p. 18). An interesting comparison may also be drawn with an important Régence régulateur de parquet by Le Bon in the Louvre collection. The upper section of that clock -- also of an approximate tête de poupée form -- has a recumbent Father Time mount to its front (with Time holding a pendulum) and is surmounted not by a figure of Cupid alone but by a group of Cupid with Fame. This clock was made for Louis-Alexandre de Bourbon, Comte de Toulouse and the illegitimate son of Louis XIV. It was installed on the first floor of the Hôtel de Toulouse in Paris and described in an inventory of 1756: 'Une pendule marquant les secondes, faite à Paris par Lebon...et du dessin de Boulle'. The dial of the present clock is also designed to show seconds. There is a maritime theme to the decoration of the case trunk on the Louvre clock which matches the clock to the mural decoration of the Galerie Dorée of the Hôtel de Toulouse,which was designed by Robert de Cotte, architect, and François-Antoine Vassé, Déssinateur Général de la Marine Royale (see D. Alcouffe, A. Dion-Tenenbaum & Lefébure, pp.102-105, also Tardy, pp. 254-255, Dreyfus, pl. 13). An ormolu mount of two heads of Wind on this clock matches another by Charles Cressent, also in the Louvre (pp. 124-125).
Although the current movement is of a later date, it is made in the spirit of the early 18th Century and is apparently a substitute for a more complicated original (the latter notion suggested by the dial engraving). The clock was originally conceived with a long pendulum (for showing seconds, as indicated by the dial); and would therefore have most probably rested on a pedestal as is presently the case.
CHARLES LE BON
The dial signature is probably that of Charles Le Bon (b. Bordeaux 1678; d. after 1739), who may have been Antoine Gaudron's pupil. He was appointed Marchand-Horloger Privilégié du Roi on 9 May 1707, an office he gave up in 1739 (see Augarde, 1996). A particularly fine régulateur de parquet by Le Bon is in the Louvre (see above).