An unusual and extremely decorative Louis XVI gilt bronze, marble and gilt and rose painted Paris Porcelain portico clock of eight day duration, signed on the white enamel dial Corniquet à Paris, the dial with inner black Roman numerals and outer red painted Arabic numerals with pierced gilt brass hands for the hours and minutes and pierced blued steel pointer for the outer seconds indications. The movement with anchor escapement, silk thread suspension, striking on the hour and half hour on a single bell, with outside count wheel. The portico-shaped case surmounted by a gilt bronze mounted griotte marble urn surmounted by a gilded foliate, floral and berried finial, with a pair of long horned rams’ head handles joined by a beaded border, upon a stepped pedestal above the clock drum, the dial with gilt beaded bezel suspended within a shaped portico, supported on either side by three Corinthian columns, each headed by a gilt and rose porcelain urn, the two sets of fluted columns on rectangular plinths, each of the two inner ones surmounted by a gilt bronze covered urn, with a free swinging Apollo mask pendulum below the dial just above and behind a standing gilt bronze winged putto and classical female figure looking and reaching toward one another symbolising amour, the putto standing on a circular marble plinth, the beautiful maiden in diaphanous dress kneeling on a rectangular pedestal upon which also rests an urn-shaped gilt bronze cassolette with pierced cover and turned feet, the whole on a stepped and shaped rectangular base with running beaded border on turned feet
Paris, date circa 1785-90
Height 64.5 cm, depth 19 cm, width 37.5 cm.
The overall design of this rather unusual clock is in the form of a portico, which was one of a number of late eighteenth century Neo-classical clock cases that took inspiration from classical architecture. Others of this type included temple and double column clocks. Many such architectural case designs were drawn and published in Paris, notably by Delafosse, Forty and Dugourc, circa 1770-90. As their name suggests these case designs featured a portico supported by a pair or sets of columns, with the clock drum either suspended from the portico or supported upon it. The columns themselves often imitated the classical orders, from the simple Doric and Ionic to the more elaborate Corinthian, as here. Cases were further adorned with classical motifs such as urns, swags as well as eagles, lions or even mythological figures. Such clocks were intended for the most elite of society and thus were made of a range of different luxury materials including gilt bronze, white and coloured marbles, glazed and biscuit porcelain as well as enamel plaques. In this instance the combination of the gilt bronze and rose coloured marble cleverly echoes the colours of the rose and gilt painted porcelain columns and surmounting porcelain urns.
The movement was made by the French clockmaker Philippe-Jacques Corniquet, who also made the movement for a mantle clock in the Palais d’Elysée in Paris. Corniquet was received as a Parisian maître in 1785. Three years later he was recorded at the Faubourg Saint-Honoré; by 1804 he was at Place Beauveau and in 1810 at rue Miromesnil. Corniquet, who is known to have made clocks indicating quarters, the seconds as well as those with calendar and astronomical indications, began his career during the later years of Louis XVI’s reign, during which period the present clock was made as well another figural clock with female figure and putto (illustrated in Pierre Kjellberg, “Encyclopédie de la Pendule Française du Moyen Age au XXe Siècle”, 1997, p. 244, pl. E). How active he was during the Revolutionary years is not recorded though we do know he made a decimal clock. His career then continued during the Empire up until about 1813. Clocks from this later period include a number of mantle clocks, some which were housed in vase-shaped cases.