Charles Voisin was a marchand who became a maître horloger in 1710 and worked on the rue Dauphine. At the death of his first wife in 1722, the duchesse de Brunswick owed him 600 livres and his stock was valued at 15,000 livres. In 1766, Voisin left the business to his son Henry, estimated then at 23,000 livres.
It is possible that this clock belonged to François Didier Mesnard de Chouzy, Secrétaire des commandements de Monseigneur le Dauphin et du Comte d'Artois. In the inventory following his death in 1772, there is described on the mantel:
une pendule de porcelaine de Saxe, oiseaux et fleurs de porcelain prisé 180 livres
The clock was kept by his widow until her death in 1790, when it was still recorded in the same hôtel on the rue Bergère. It was probably sold, as it was no longer described in the inventories of the two Mesnard children.
The clock was manufactured circa 1735, and the dates of production of the Meissen porcelain correspond stylistically to the date of the
ormolu base and the case. Imported by a marchand-mercier such as Herbault (who happened to be a witness to the marriage of the clockmaker Voisin in 1725), Meissen porcelain groups were extremely expensive in the 18th Century. Clocks and objects of only the greatest value were embellished with this type of ornament, and were virtually exclusively the work of a marchand-mercier.
The model of case found on this example was employed with a few small variations by Charles Voisin on another clock which sold Christie's London, 9 June 1991, lot 34. It seems that he was furthermore a specialized dealier in precious clocks of this type. He delivered a number of clocks for the Elector of Bavaria which are still conserved in the Residenz in Munich.
THE MEISSEN PORCELAIN
These early chinoiserie groups have traditionally been given to Georg Fritzsche apparently without contemporary documentation. Whomever this modeller was, he was one of the earliest modellers to have worked at Meissen and his idiosyncratic chinoiserie style has a very distinctive charm. Examples of this particular group are very rare indeed. One, also mounted as a clock, interestingly enough with closely similar but less elaborate mounts to the present lot, is in the Von Klemperer Collection; see the Catalogue (Dresden, 1928), pl. 43, fig. 505. This example is also illustrated by Carl Albiker in Die Meissner Porzellantiere (Berlin, 1959) pl. LX, fig. 238. An ormolu-mounted version of this group was sold out of the Emma Budge collection (Berlin, 1937), see the Catalogue, pl. 114, fig. 730; an an unmounted example can be seen in the Catalogue of the Irwin Untermyer Collection, (London, 1956), pl. 19, fig. 24. Another unmounted example was sold at Sotheby's London, 27 November 1956, lot 148, and a further example from the Collection of a Noted European Collector was sold Christie's London, 28 March 1977, lot 112.