A very important Louis XIV gilt bronze mounted brass inlaid tortoiseshell marquetry Boulle bracket clock of eight day duration, signed on the backplate of the movement De Lorme à Paris, the engraved gilt bronze dial with white enamel cartouches with blue Roman numerals and a fine pair of blued steel hands for the hours and minutes. The rectangular movement with silk thread suspension, striking on a single bell with outside count wheel. The magnificent case decorated overall in première-partie and contre-partie inlaid brass and tortoiseshell in the manner of André-Charles Boulle, with an arched pedimented top surmounted by the figure of a bearded Father Time dressed in a loin cloth, holding a sickle and seated above a mask of Diana flanked below by four flaming urns above canted corners occupied by four female herms representing the Four Seasons, each with a basket filled with produce on their heads, above ornate scroll supports terminated by toupie feet and adorned below the dial with the figure of Apollo riding across the heavens in his horse-drawn chariot above plumage flanked by acanthus leaves, the whole supported on a mounted Boulle shaped bracket flanked by four S-scrolled supports headed by superb Apollo masks issuing from an acanthus-wrapped berried boss
Paris, date circa 1720
Height 150 cm.
Literature: Simon Fleet, Clocks, Pleasures and Treasures”, 1961, p. 50, pl. 44, illustrating a Boulle clock signed and dated on the movement Salles à Caen 1700, featuring very similar herm Seasons and a comparable surmounting figure of Father Time. “André Charles Boulle, Ébéniste et Marqueteur Ordinaire du Roy”, 1984, p. 204 for comparison. Tardy, “La Pendule Française”, 1987, p. 174, pl. XIII, illustrating a very similar clock but without bracket, with Boulle marquetry, a similar overall design and comparable mounts to include Apollo on his chariot, herms at the angles, flaming finials but the figure of Sunrise at the summit. Pierre Kjellberg, “Encyclopédie de la Pendule Française du Moyen Age au XXe Siècle”, 1997, pp. 50-51, illustrating a number of comparable clock cases.
An almost identical clock was owned by the comte de Beaumont and like this reflects the taste for luxury and ostentation that prevailed during the reign of the Sun King, Louis XIV. The art of brass and tortoiseshell inlay was perfected by André-Charles Boulle (1642-1732), from whom the technique gained its name. It involved a gift for artistic invention as well as great skills in cutting out with a fretsaw the brass and tortoiseshell sheets (laid one on top of one another) to ensure that the cut-out pieces of brass then perfectly fitted into the spaces left in the tortoiseshell and vice versa. Much of Boulle’s pieces were made in pairs, the areas with brass-in-tortoiseshell being known as première-partie and the negative known as contre-partie (as for instance on the interior of the backdoor). Boulle created a variety of furniture and clock cases decorated with such refined marquetry, which soon became the height fashion. An example of a similar Boulle clock can be seen in Watteau’s famous oil “L’Enseigne de Gersaint” of 1721 (Charlottenburg Palace, Berlin).
Like a number of clocks of the period, the present decorations relate to the passage of time. Here for instance day or sunlight is represented in the guise of Apollo, the mythological sun god while in other examples night is symbolized by Diana, often represented by a moon. In addition the four herm seasons at the angles hold a basket of produce appropriate to the time of the changing harvests. But the most obvious reference to time is Father Time himself who surmounts the whole work; the aged figure holding a sickle is one that often featured on clocks at this period including a number by Boulle himself such as an example in the Musée du Louvre (illustrated in Hans Ottomeyer and Peter Pröschel, “Vergoldete Bronzen”, 1986, p. 41, pl. 220.127.116.11) as well as attributed examples at Waddesdon Manor, the Louvre and the J. P. Getty Museum California (illustrated ibid., pp. 39-40)
The movement itself was made by Henry-Philippe Delorme (d. 1751) whose work is represented in the Palazzo Reale, Turin as well as Château de Beloeil. Delorme was received as a maître in 1708 and later presided as Garde-Visiteur of his guild (1736-38 and 1740-42). A number of his clocks were supplied to the merchand-mercier Noël Gérard and were owned by the duchesses du Maine and d’Harlincourt, the prince de Ligne, the marquis d’Arpajon as well as President Joly de Fleury. His son Vincent (d. circa 1755), who was received in 1717, appears to have worked with him since both were established in rue d’Arnetal by 1738; eight years later they were in rue Greneta and at the time of Henry-Philippe’s death in rue Bourg-l’Abbé.