A very fine quality Empire gilt and patinated bronze and red marble figural clock of fourteen day duration attributed to Claude Galle. The circular gilt bronze shield-form dial cast with Roman numerals within circular lozenges and blued steel hands for the hours and minutes, centred by a sunburst surrounded by four classical maidens. The movement with anchor escapement, silk thread suspension, striking on the quarters on a single bell, with outside count wheel. The magnificent case featuring the standing figure of Pallas Athene wearing a plumed helmet and laurel wreath, a short tunic beneath a long cloak gathered at the shoulder, sandals and holding a spear with caduceus in her right hand and supporting in her left hand the shield-shaped dial against her chest, the figure standing on a rectangular red marble plinth on a stepped and foliate banded gilt bronze base
Paris, date circa 1815
Height of figure: 70 cm. Overall height 87 cm.
Literature: Hans Ottomeyer and Peter Pröschel, “Vergoldete Bronzen”, 1986, p. 397, pl. 5.18.12, illustrating a virtually identical clock in Stockholm Castle but of pure gilt bronze with additional mounts to the porphyry plinth and a much plainer spear. J. Ramon Colon De Carvajal, “Catalogo De Relojes Del Patrimonio Nacional”, 1987, p. 185, no. 165, illustrating a clock of virtually the identical model in the Spanish Royal collection. Tardy, “Les Plus Belles Pendules Françaises”, 1994, p. 278, illustrating a clock of the same model but of pure gilt bronze with additional mounts to the plinth, in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Paris. Elke Niehüser, “Die Französische Bronzeuhr”, 1997, p. 229, pl. 650, illustrating a clock of the same model.
The magnificent case can be attributed to Claude Galle (1759-1815), whose son Gérard-Jean Galle (1788-1846) continued to produce this model after his father’s death. Among those by the latter was one supplied to Stockholm Castle on 12th June 1823 as part of much larger delivery, at a cost of 1350 francs in part return for some Swedish porphyry. Schloss Ehrenburg at Coburg, the Spanish Royal Collection as well as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Paris also own examples of this imposing piece.
According to Jean-Dominique Augarde the first Pallas Athena clock was made in 1815. This was the year that Claude Galle died but slightly predates the time that his son took over the business. Claude Galle died the year that Napoleon was overthrown. Following the bronzier’s death his wife temporarily took over the business until Gérard-Jean returned home from the army and continued the concern with great success. Among other works, he produced models of the present clock up until 1825. Although at first glance the clock appears to be the same as those by Gérard-Jean, it differs in a few respects, here the hour and minute numerals are cast and thus are integral to the whole shield-shaped dial, while on later examples the dials have white enamel numeral cartouches. In addition, the movement as well as the winding holes on the present clock are larger than one would expect to find on later models.
Claude Galle was born at Villepreux near Versailles; during his youth he moved to Paris to begin an apprenticeship under the fondeur, Pierre Foy at rue du Four. In 1784 Galle married Foy’s daughter, Marie-Elizabeth; when Foy died in 1788 Galle was required to pay off the elder’s debts before taking over the workshop, which he built up into one the finest of its kind, eventually employing about 400 craftsmen. Galle moved the business to Quai de la Monnaie (renamed Quai de 1’Unité) and from 1805 operated from 60 Rue Vivienne, close to fellow fondeur, Pierre-Victor Ledure. From 1784 Galle began appearing in the trade registers; he became a maitre-fondeur in 1786 and in the same year received the first of many commissions from the Garde-Meuble to furnish the royal palaces, which in addition to Fontainebleau included the Châteaux de Saint-Cloud, Compiègne and Rambouillet, Le Palais des Tuileries, Les Trianons, as well as Monte Cavallo Rome and Stupinigi near Turin. Today Galle’s work can be found amongst the world’s finest collections, which in addition to the above include the Musée National de Chateau de Malmaison, the Musée Marmottan in Paris, the Museo de Reloges at Jerez de la Frontera, the Residenz Munich and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.
Pallas Athene, also known as Minerva who was one of the twelve Olympians gods and protected many Greek cities, notably Athens, which bears her name. She was the daughter of Jupiter and sprang fully armed from his head. A virgin goddess who refused to marry she was also a warrior-goddess and participated in the god’s battle against the giants. Due to her conquests she is often associated with Victory and is almost always represented wearing a helmet and spear in hand.