Jean-François Deninger, dit Denière, 1774-1866.
Nicolas Mathieu Rieussec, recorded in 14 rue du Marché-Palu, 1804-12 and from 1817 at 13 rue Notre-Dame-des-Petits-Champs.
This magnificent Urania clock was executed by the bronzier Denière between 1805-11, almost certainly to designs by Charles Percier and Pierre-François-Léonard Fontaine. A watercolour for a closely related Pendule égyptienne à sujets featured as Plate VIII in their engraved pattern-book Recueils de Décorations Intérieures, published in 1801. This watercolour is illustrated and discussed in 'Egyptomania', Exhibition Catalogue, 15 October 1994-15 January 1995, no.168, pp.287-8. Percier and Fontaine's design was accompanied by the following text:- 'Pendule à la manière égyptienne, exécutée pour l'Espagne. La satiété produite par le grands nombre d'ouvrages de ce genre, et le désire d'avoir un meuble qui ne resemblât pas à tous les autres, a fait demander que celui-ci fût dans le goût égyptien sans chercher à dénatturer la form nécessaire au mécanisme des pendules ordinaire. On s'est donc borné à revêtir les faces et les contours de signes et d'ornemens tiré des ouvrages égyptiens...' The Percier and Fontaine design displays the distinctive decorative motif of a Sacrificial Offering by two Egyptian Priestesses to Jupiter-Amon; the fact that this motif reappears on this clock would point to the involvement of Percier and Fontaine in the design.
Clocks of this basic model were supplied by Denière to the château de Fontainebleau and to the Grand Trianon at Versailles. Carlos IV, King of Spain also admired the Urania model - having two variants, one partially of Sèvres biscuit porcelain, both of which display the same plinth with an allegory of the Nile which was invented by the sculptor Taunay in 1806 (illustrated in J. Ramon Colon de Carvajal, Catalogo de Relojes del Patrimonio Nacional, Madrid, 1987, pp. 165 and 283). Interestingly, Denière also supplied Carlos IV with a closely related clock with a Sèvres porcelain figure. Further examples in the National Museum in Bavaria, and are illustrated in P. Kjellberg, Encyclopédie de La Pendule Française, Paris, 1997, p.397, fig.E. Another example is recorded among the works of art which Napoleon's brother Joseph took with him to exile in America, described in the 1847 sale of his collection as 'a magnificent bronze Urania... with sphere and timepiece' and stated as having been in the Palais de Luxembourg.
The extremely unusual feature of having blued-steel pull-out carrying rods to the plinth base can also be seen on a clock in the Royal Collection, which was presumably acquired by George, Prince of Wales, later King George IV, for Carlton House.
Appointed Envoy in Constantinople around 1796, the bronzier Denière entered into partnership with François Mathelin in 1797. They founded a prosperous operation and their atelier had over 200 workers during the Empire period - a number that subsequently doubled during the reign of Louis-Philippe. Fournisseur to the duchesse de Berry and Louis-Philippe, Denière also worked for the King of Spain. Along with Pierre-Philippe Thomire, he was one of the leading architects of the goût Égyptien under the influence of Baron Vivant-Denon - although confusingly he not only sold models invented by his fellow bronziers but also bought the chefs modèles of former bronziers in sales liquidating their stock.
A further clock by Denière, originally in the collection of the 4th Marquis of Hertford at the château de Bagatelle and possibly ordered directly from Denière, was sold from the Wildenstein Collection in 1979 and subsequently sold from the Collection of Akram Ojjeh, Monaco, 11 December 1999, lot 10.
NICOLAS MATHIEU RIEUSSEC
This clock-maker achieved success both under Napoleon and after the restoration of the monarchy under Louis XVIII, by whom he was made horloger du roi in 1817. As this appointment clearly post-dates the manufacture of this magnificent clock (and there is no record of Rieussec being made horloger du roi earlier for Louis XVI), it is therefore possible that he worked on this clock in the capacity of a restorer.