In his article, Bronzes d'ameublement français du XVIIIe siècle in Bulletin de la Société d'Histoire de l'art Français (1980, pp. 199-210), Pierre Verlet lists the artisans used by Lepaute. The cases were made by Etienne Martincourt, the casting and chasing was done by François Vion, the gilding by Louis-François Gobert and Charles Leveillé. Gilles-Paul Cauvet created any sculptural ornamentation and Jean-Antoine Houdon sculpted the figures. The designers Antoine-Mathurin Le Carpentier and Charles de Wailly completed many drawings and oversaw the clocks' execution. As such, the design of the present clock has been attributed to de Wailly, with the figures attributed to Houdon.
THE PRINCE DE CONDÉ
The presentation inscription to the base of this clock is of particular interest. Lepaute is known to have made a clock of this design for the Princesse de Condé's bedroom at the Palais Bourbon, which is now in the Château de Fontainebleau. At the request of the Princess, it was specially engineered with a mechanism to stop striking at midnight and remain silent until midday. This clock is illustrated in Verlet's Les Bronzes Dorés Français du XVIIIe siècle, Paris, 1999, pl. 25, p. 35). It is interesting that the Prince de Condé chose to present Mr. Chuppin de Germigny with a clock of similar design to one in his collection.
Clocks of this model exist with both patinated bronze and gilt-bronze figures. In his aforementioned article, Verlet refers to Lepaute's catalogue from 1766 in which this model appears with a price indication; 2,000 livres with patinated bronze figures, 2,500 livres with ormolu figures such as the clock presented here. It is understandable that the clock for the Princesse de Condé was made with gilt-bronze figures but the fact that the present clock's figures are also made in gilt-bronze highlights the importance of this present to Mr. Chuppin de Germigny.
A similar clock, in this instance with patinated bronze figures, but with the same provenance as the present lot, can be found in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (Ogden Mills Bequest 1929, accession no. 37.160.10). A comparable clock, again with patinated figures, formerly in the Kimberley Collection, was last sold by Blanchet, 18 November 2009, formerly sold Sotheby's, London, 25 November 1988. Other similar examples sold include, Christie's, Amsterdam, 7 May 2008, Lot 48 and Christie's, Paris, 17 November 2010, Lot 250.
THE LEPAUTE DYNASTY
Spelt both Le Paute and Lepaute, this celebrated dynasty of horlogers was founded by Jean-André in 1740. He settled in Paris and was appointed horloger du Roi with lodgings in the Luxembourg Palace. His innovative ideas, such as the échappement à repos of 1753, as well as his writings, including the impressive Traité d'Horlogerie, (1755), earned him the title Maître and lodgings at the Louvre in 1759. His brother Jean-Baptiste also became horloger du Roi and succeeded him in the Galeries du Louvre lodgings in 1775. The next generation of horlogers strengthened the reputation of the Lepaute dynasty. Pierre-Henry Lepaute and his cousin Pierre-Basile bought, then subsequently divided, their uncle's company, This latter line of the dynasty continued to prosper, Pierre-Basile and his nephew Jean-Joseph employing the signature 'Lepaute à Paris'. During the Empire they became the main supplier of clocks to the garde-meuble.
THE COLLECTOR OGDEN MILLS
The American connoisseur, collector and philanthropist, Ogden Mills, puchased 73 rue de Varenne in 1910. The hôtel was initially occupied by the American Forces during the First World War, but then completely refurnished under Mills' direction in the early 1920s. Ogden L. Mills, US Secretary of the Treasury under President Hoover and son of the powerful American banker Darius Ogden Mills, re-awakened the hôtel's 18th century interior with the acquisition of some of the best furniture and decoration available at the time.
A private residence since its construction, the hôtel at 73 rue de Varenne, like the Domaine in Alain-Fournier's Grand Meaulnes, conceals behind its high walls a rich history and fine 18th century interior decororation. Purchased in 1752 by Victor-François de Broglie, Duc de Broglie and Marchal de France, the hôtel Julliet de Taverny was, until 1777, the residence of Abbé Charles-Maurice de Broglie, Bishop of Noyon. The Duc then decided to occupy the hôtel himself, at which point the central part of the building was extended two-fold towards the garden and was given a new façade by the architect Le Boursier. The walls of the main salon were then covered with panelling carved with arabesques. Seized and stripped of its furnishings during the Revolution, the hôtel was in the 19th century home to the Duchesse de Montebello, widow of Maréchal Lanne and former Lady-in-Waiting to Empress Marie-Louise.
J.-D. Augarde, Les Ouvriers du Temps, Geneva, 1996, p. 142, fig.104 Jean-Pierre Samoyault, Pendules et bronzes d'ameublement entrés sous le Premier Empire, Paris, 1989, p. 54, no. 10.
Marie-France Dupuy-Baylet, Pendules du Mobilier National 1800-1870, Dijon, 2006, p. 125, no. 58.
Peter Heuer, Klaus Maurice Europäische Pendeluhren, Dekorative Instrumente der Zeitmessung, Munich, 1988, p. 52, pl. 79.
Ernest Dumonthier, Les Bronzes du Mobilier National, Pendules et Cartels, Paris, plate 13, no. 1.
H. Ottomeyer and P. Pröschel, et al., Vergoldete Bronzen, Munich, 1986, p. 93, p. 164, pl. 3.3.10.
E. Niehüser, French Bronze Clocks, 1700-1830, 1999, p. 37, fig. 42.
P. Kjellberg, L'Encyclopédie de La Pendule Française, Paris, 1997, p.396, fig. B.