The Lepaute (or Le Paute) family was one of the most celebrated firms of 18th century French clockmakers and gained Royal favor by 1751. Besides Louis XV, Louis XVI, the comtes de Provence and d'Artois and other members of the Royal family and the court, Le Paute supplied clocks to the courts of Parma, Spain and Sweden. They collaborated with some of the most celebrated sculptors of the period, notably Clodion, Houdon and Augustin Pajou (1730-1809), who may have supplied the design for the present model.
Working closely with the bronziers François Vion and Robert and Jean-Baptiste Osmond, Jean-André Lepaute (1720-1789) perfected his designs for clocks with rotating dials, cadrans tournants, in about 1765. It was a technological achievement which reflected the scientifc advancements in the age of englightenment and one which cleverly masked the winding hole under a hinged garland. The Lepaute signature or stamp is found on several related models, most with a handled vase and serpent pointer based on a design by Gilles-Paul Cauvet (1731-1788) and described by Lepaute in his 1766 Description de plusieurs ouvrages d'horlogerie as a 'Pendule verte à cercles tournants, l'heure est indiquée par un serpent. Ce modèle est de Cauvet, 1300 livres.'
An identical clock in white marble and entirely gilded with a movement by Roque is in the Musée des Beaux-Arts, Lyon. D, Áugarde, Les Ouvriers du Témps, Geneva, 1996, p. 27). It is almost certainly the one sold from the collection of Baron von Horn on 29 November 1809, lot 80 which is described as ‘une pendule représentant le globe terrestre, soutenu par un groupe de nuages dorés, & traversé par un cadran circulaire, orné & le tout élevé sur un cipe cannelé en marbre blanc de Carrare, avec tore : rosaces, guirlandes & autres ornements en bronze doré d’or mat. Haut. 13 po., larg. 9’ (A. Pradère, ‘Baron van Horn: an amateur of Boulle, Antiquity, and the Middle Ages under the Empire’, Furniture History, 2007, pp.210-11, fig. 5, and note 22). A second model, from a revolutionary confiscation, was sent on 28 Ventôse an 4 (18 March 1796) to the Ministry of Finance. (Archives Nationales, O2 445). A further example in white marble (possibly the Van Horn clock) was supplied to the Comte d'Artois, a significant client of Lepaute's. A well-known version, also by Lepaute and after a Pajou design, includes a less precise celestial globe - with only stars rather than the extremely detailed globe of the present lot, two putti in a slightly different arrangement and the figure of Father Time leaning over the composition - and is in the Wallace Collection, London (P. Hughes. The Wallace Collection: Catalogue of Furniture, London, 1996, no. 110). A further more simplified model by Lepaute, featuring ram’s masks and lacking putti, was offered anonymously at Christie’s, London, 6 July 2012, lot 172.