The design for this spectacular mantel clock is taken from Jacques-Louis David's 1784 painting of The Oath of the Horatii and exemplifies the late 18th and early 19th century fashion for modelling clocks after iconic historical pictures.
As in David's celebrated painting the three Horatii brothers are depicted taking the oath of fidelity to Rome before receiving arms from their father, while the relief-cast panel decorating the plinth shows the brothers in battle with the Curatti for supremacy over Alba. With close family ties existing between these two houses -one of the three Horatii brothers had married a Curatti and a sister was betrothed to another- the decision to fight represented the patriotic ideal of placing country before family, a virtue which was favoured by European princes and examples of this clock can be found in several Royal collections.
One model, with a verde antico marble base, was acquired by George, Prince of Wales, in 1809 for the Large Crimson Drawing Room at Carlton House; it remains in the Royal collection at Buckingham Palace and is illustrated in R. Garnier et al, Buckingham Palace, A Complete Guide, London 1993, p.92, fig 1. A second model of this clock, apparently identical to the one at Buckingham Palace, is in the Munich Residenz (ill. H. Ottomeyer & P. Pröschel, Vergoldete Bronzen, Munich 1986, p. 367, fig. 5.13.5) while a third example is in the anteroom of Prince Frederik Adolf's apartments in the Royal Palace, Stockholm (ill. H. Groth, Neoclassicism in the North, London, 1990, p. 23 fig. 7).