Joseph de Saint-Germain, maître in 1750.
This magnificent mantel clock with musical movement represents a collaboration by one of the most highly regarded fondeur-ciseleurs, Jean-Joseph de Saint-Germain, with his father, the ébéniste Joseph de Saint-Germain.
JEAN-JOSEPH DE SAINT-GERMAIN
Elected as a maître fondeur en terre et en sable on 15 July 1748, Saint-Germain (1719 - 1791) enjoyed the privilege of an ouvrier libre - enabling him to act both as an ébéniste and bronzier. He frequently supplied cases cast with animal forms and allegorical figures to the leading clockmakers of Paris, including the le Roy workshops, Etienne Lenoir and Jean-Philippe Gosselin. The quality of chasing and modelling in Saint-Germain's animal and foliate decorated cases also suggests close study of the natural world. A man of his times, Saint-Germain probably received a rudimentary education in retoric, the Classics and calculus in addition to a formal study of sculpture and draughtsmanship, reflecting the social and economic status of his family. Evidence for this early education is seen in the substantial library and finely organized cabinet of curiosities he amassed. This collection, in turn, sheds light upon his interests in the natural sciences, particularly botany and mineralogy, and the quality of his bronze casts (J.-D. Augarde, "Jean-Joseph de Saint-Germain: Bronzier (1719-1791)", L'Estampille/l'Objet d'Art, December, 1996, pp. 63-82).
JOSEPH DE SAINT-GERMAIN
Joseph was the father of Jean-Joseph and himself the son of a menusier. He became maître in 1750 and was specialised in the production of bases for mantel clocks and the backings for cartel clocks and barometers. Father and son shared the same atelier between 1750 and 1755 which promoted the exchange of mounts and coffers during that period.
Joachim Bailly received his privileges in 1749 of the Trinity Hospital but declared bankruptcy in 1759. He continued manufacturing clock movements thereafter in various locations in Paris.
DATE OF MANUFACTURE
Saint-Germain manufactured numerous bases of this type, usually as boxes for the musical movements below clocks. Jean-Dominique Augarde dates these coffers as early as 1747 (Vergoldete Bronzen, Munich, 1986, vol. II, p. 530, illus. 8). It is, however, very probable that the offered clock dates between 1750 and 1755, when Joseph and Jean-Joseph de Saint-Germain shared the same atelier and Bailly was active.
A coffer of this shape and with identical mounts but with a Boulle marquetry top inlaid with the initials of Louis-René-Edouard, prince de Rohan, is in the Wallace Collection (P. Hughes, The Wallace Collection, Catalogue of Furniture, London, 1996, vol. II, cat. 135 (F400-1), pp. 629 - 632). An identical corne verte base by Saint-Germain with rhinoceros clock was sold anonymously at Sotheby's New York, 3 November 1989, lot 44 ($ 660,000), while another with elephant clock is illustrated in P. Kjellberg, Encyclopédie de La Pendule Française, Paris, 1997, p. 128A.
The model for the clock-case, usually entitled pendule aux enfants sauvages is rare and particularly so in combination with the base. Usually the base is surmounted by animal-supported clocks with a rhinoceros, lion or elephant, or by his pendule aux Chinois. An identical clock without base and with movement by Gallois is illustrated in P. Kjellberg, op. cit, p. 125B, while another with movement by J.-B. Dutertre is illustrated in P. Verlet, Les Bronzes Dorés Français du XVIIIe Siècle, Paris, 1987, p. 108, figs. 125 - 129.