Balthazar Lieutaud, matre in 1749.
Philippe Caffiri, matre-sculpteur in 1754.
The Praslin Provenance
The incomplete inventory of the duchesse de Praslin of 1784 omits any longcase clocks in the appartements of the duc and his wife. It is not until the death of their only son that the inventory of December 1791 lists in the grand salon under number 182:
Une riche pendule, mouvement de Ferdinand Berthoud quation, marquante les heures, minutes, quantimes et phases de la lune avec baromtre aiguille, dans sa bote de huit pieds de haut, richement garnie de bronze dor 2,400 livres.
Guests, using the stairs to the left of the cour d'honneur, had direct access to the antichamber of the ducal apartment, previously that of his father but completely renovated in 1785. In the antichamber they could admire a large painting of Vaux and its waterfalls. Through a second antichamber they could enter the bedroom and then through the petit salon, illuminated l'italienne, they entered the grand salon or salon dor. This salon, even more stunning with its magnificent view of the Seine, had five windows and was covered in green satin. A bust of the first duc de Praslin stood on an ebony plinth while two medal cabinets by Andr-Charles Boulle (now in a private collection) and a commode by the same cabinet-maker and after the same design as that delivered to King Louis XIV for his bedroom at the Grand Trianon in 1708, heightened the sumptuous furnishings. A pair of marquetry plinths in contre-partie, lacquer cabinets as well as bronzes, Chinese porcelain and numerous paintings completed its decoration. It is in this interior, with its Boulle and lacquer furniture, that this ebony longcase clock has to be imagined.
In the straightened circumstances of the Revolution, no longer allowing the opulence of former years, the duchesse, ne Durfort, with her three adolescent and two adult children, decided to sell the collection. The sale commenced on 18 February 1793 and the longcase clock was sold as lot 255. Bought back by the eldest son Antoine Csar (d. 1808), the clock subsequently decorated the cabinet of the senator and duc in his country house at Auteuil, still with the Boulle furniture and the bust of his grandfather. It was only after 1808 that the longcase clock was sent to the chteau de Vaux-Praslin, today the chteau Vaux-le-Vicomte. It is listed in the room of the duc (the son of Antoine Csar), which was renamed the Chambre du Roi, in 1841:
Un rgulateur de Ferdinand Berthoud formant baromtre, indiquant les mois et les semaines avec ornements de bronze dor en bois d'bne 2,000 francs
With the death of the duchesse in 1861, the Vaux-Praslin furniture passed to Gaston de Choiseul-Praslin, but fifteen years later the chteau was sold and the collection dispersed at auction. Lasting from the 3-5 April 1875, the clock was sold as lot 236.
IMAGE SL281, RL97 W + X
Sold at a price of 25,500 francs, it was probably purchased by Alphonse de Rothschild.
The Collection of the ducs de Praslin
The first duc purchased the htel de Belle-Isle and the chteau de Vaux, with the furnishings and paintings that already adorned these prestigious buildings, in 1765. The collection was further enriched, and according to a historical almanac of 1777, the htel had already un des plus considrables cabinets de la capitale. The inventory of the duchesse in 1784 does not list a single painting but the inventory had not been completed. Her son Renaud Louis considerably expanded the collection and 114 Dutch paintings were finally sold in 1793, when the Republic purchased paintings and armour to a value of 36,480 livres.
The htel de Choiseul-Praslin
Built by the architect Bruant for the grandson of the famous surintendant des Finances of King Louis XIV, Nicolas Fouquet circa 1725, the htel occupied an entire block of houses from the rue de Lille to the Seine. On the death of the minister, marchal de France, duc de Bell-Isle and of Gisors, the htel returned to the estate of the King who exchanged it in 1765 the duc de Praslin. The second cousin of the duc de Choiseul-Amboise and principal minister of King Louis XV, Csar-Gabriel de Choiseul, duc de Praslin, was ambassador to Vienna in 1758, Foreign minister and then Ministre de la Marine. Disgraced in 1770, the htel was inherited following his death in 1785 by his son Renaud-Csar, the famous collector, who himself died in 1791.
The htel was sold in 1806 and subsequently divided into apartments before being bought by the state in 1857. It was converted into the Caisse des Dpts et Consignations before it burnt down in 1871 and it was later only partially rebuilt.
Closely Related Examples:
- An identical longcase clock, but lacking the barometer, is in the Royal Spanish collection and exhibited in the Royal Palace in Madrid (J. Ramon Colon de Carvajal, Catalogo de Relojes del Patrimonio Nacional, Madrid, 1987, p. 58, fig. 41). Also stamped Lieutaud and with movement by Berthoud, this clock had in the past erroneously been identified as that from the collection of the duc de Praslin.
- Former collection of the Duke of Westminster at Eaton Hall, Cheshire, illustrated in The Connoisseur, September 1907.
Other Longcase Clocks by Ferdinand Berthoud and stamped by
- London, Wallace Collection (P. Hughes, The Wallace Collection,
Catalogue of Furniture, London, 1996, I, p. 444 - 451, cat. F271), ebony case.
- The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (W. Rieder, The Jack and Belle Linsky Collection in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1984, pp. 243-244), ebony case, previously from the collection of Mrs. Jacques Balsan, then Thelma Chrysler Foy, sold Parke-Bernet, New York, 13, 15 and 16 May 1959, lot 352.
- Formerly the collection of the Earls of Stair, Loching Castle, having been inherited through the 10th Earl of Stairs' marriage in 1846 to Louisa Jane Henrietta Emily de Franquetot, eldest daughter of Auguste-Louis-Joseph-Casimir-Gustave, duc de Coigny, sold in these Rooms, 6 April 1978, lot 59.
- Hillwood Museum, Washington, D.C., collection of Mrs. Post, bought in 1956 at French and Co., New York, possibly that formerly from the collection of Prince Paar of Vienna, sold in these Rooms, 8 May 1912, lot 113, tulipwood case.
- Frick Collection, New York (T. Dell, The Frick Collection, an illustrated catalogue, Princeton, 1992, V, pp. 314 - 332), formerly from the collection Feyt, Paris, 1790, and the collection of the Vicomte de Saint Georges, the mounts signed and dated Caffieri 1767.
- Museum at chteau de Versailles, formerly the collection of Thomas de Pange, sold 5 March 1781, lot 134, then the collection of the duc de Noailles, seized during the Revolution in 1793.
-Hermitage Museum, Moscow, ebony case with a five-pointed star to the plinth.
Ferdinand Berthoud (1727-1807) was born in Placement, near Couvet about twelve miles south-west of Le Locle. His father, Jean Berthoud, was an architect and judiciary. In 1741 he was bound over to his brother, Jean-Henri, with whom he served a three year apprenticeship before leaving for Paris where it is thought he worked for a period of time with the great horologist, Juien LeRoy (1686-1759). By 1752, at the age of twenty-five, Berthoud had made a clock with perpetual calendar that also indicated mean and solar time; this he was asked to present to the Acadmie des Sciences who greatly approved of it. By this very early stage in his life Berthoud had established himself as a highly acclaimed horologist. His output of clocks, watches and marine chronometers was astonishing, as was his insatiable appetite for writing on the subject. On 24 July 1764 he was appointed Horloger Mcanicien de sa Majest et de la Marine ayant l'inspection de la construction des horloges Marines with an annual stipend of 3,000 livres that had increased to 7,000 by 1782. The position was of considerable importance at a time when the race to construct a timepiece capable of finding longitude at sea was the social and political talk of all western Europe. From 1766 he designed all marine clocks and watches used on the King's ships. In 1766 he was appointed a member of the Royal Society of London and later a Chevalier de la Lgion d'Honneur. In 1786 he was a member of the commission to establish a Royal clock factory and in 1793 made a member of the Temporary Commission for the Arts.
Berthoud's writings covered more than 4,000 quarto pages with more than 120 engraved plates from drawings by his own hand; his most important works included: Essai sur l'Horlogerie (1763), Traits des Horloges Marines (1773), De la Measure du Temps (1787) and Histoire de la Measure du Temps par les Horloges (1802). Berthoud specialized in making complicated astronomical timepieces, he made comparatively few rgulateurs de parquet in his lifetime and perhaps only as many as 30-40 watches a year. All his clocks and watches were at the cutting edge of horological innovation and as with all great clockmakers he was not only an inventor and clockmaker but he also possessed a creative and artistic eye. The dial of the present clock is extremely complicated and displays an astonishing fourteen different functions. These are all ingeniously laid-out using only the main chapter ring and the enamel retrograde fly-back calendar dial below which purposely reflects the curve of the main chapter ring. The large format design of the dial also meant that Berthoud had given himself the luxury of being able to design the movement on a grand scale. Its magnificent and clinical proportions uses a great deal of brass which was then an expensive material normally used sparingly by clockmakers. Regulators, or precision clocks required far greater accuracy than other domestic timepieces so by making the movement with thicker brass plates and with larger and more robust pillars it increased the movement's stability, giving it a better chance to keep accurate time.
Berthoud's early writings and drawings of pendulums confirm that he was experimenting with a combination of metals which had different temperature co-efficients that would counteract each other to help to maintain a constant length which would achieve greater accuracy. The pendulum employed on the present clock is of the best quality. The nine rods of steel and brass are of rectangular section and are suspended from a substantial steel block on the backboard so that it can swing with almost total independence from the movement. The theory behind the gridiron pendulum is that the relative expansions of steel and brass are 3 : 5 so that a five foot steel rod expanding down would be opposed by a three foot brass rod expanding up, thus the length of the pendulum would stay the same and the time on the dial remains constant. The five-rod gridiron was used at first but it was later found that the best results were gained from those with nine rods. Under the right conditions Berthoud would probably have expected this clock to have kept time to within a few seconds a week.
He had the cases for his clocks made by the cabinet-makers Petit, Duhamel, Joseph, Cressent and particularly by Lieutaud. The bronziers Lveille, Martincourt, Osmond, Saint-Germain and particularly Caffiri supplied him with clock cases as well as bronze mounts. As horloger de la Marine he evidently knew his patron, the duc de Praslin, which is probably the reason for the commission.
Son of the bniste Charles Lieutaud, maker of clocks and part of the privileged enclosure of Saint-Jean de Latran, Balthazar Lieutaud became matre on 20 March 1749. Living on the Ile de la Cit in the rue de la Pelleterie, and in 1772 in the rue d'Enfer, Balthazar Lieutaud regularly worked for the clock-makers Viger, Baillon, Dutertre, Balthazard, Voisin, Gudin, Lepaute, Robin, etc. It appears that Berthoud commissioned Lieutaud to make several longcase clocks, of which the clock-maker possibly was the owner of the design, in circa 1765. He worked with Caffiri, but also with the bronziers Charles Grimpelle and Edme Roy. After his death in 1780 his wife continued the atelier until 1784.
The son of the sculpteur et ciseleur ordinaire du Roi, Philippe Caffiri (1714-74) initially trained as a sculpteur but in 1747 entered into partnership with his father Jacques, collaborating on a number of commissions in the Rococo style. At his father's death in 1755, he assumed total control of the atelier and was elected a master bronzier that same year. Caffieri was responsible for the bronzes of the earliest suite of furniture in the Neo-Classical style, which was designed by Louis-Joseph Le Lorrain and supplied in ebony and ormolu for Ange-Laurent de Lalive de Jully circa 1756, and this celebrated suite is of closely related character to the Rothschild Choiseul clock. The aforementioned closely related clock in the Frick, which shares so many mounts with the Choiseul clock, is signed on a plaque Les Bronze Par Caffierj L'Ain.