A large French ormolu and patinated bronze striking eight-day figural mantel clock (Pendule a la Geoffrin)
After the model by Laurent Guiard, probably first quarter 19th Century
Modelled with a bronze reclining female figure reading a folio, her left elbow resting on top of the arched clock case, surmounted by a globe, on turned support with ribbons at the base, flanked by a female caryatid to each corner, each with a cone finial, the plinth with a moulded edge above fluted swept sides and rectangular base, the 6 1/2 in. circular white enamel dial inscribed Lefaucheur Her. du Roy A Paris, with finely pierced latten hands, Roman chapters and Arabic five-minute markers, the twin train movement with rectangular plates, rounded to each corner, with countwheel strike on a bell, silk suspension
66cm wide; 48cm high; 25.5cm deep, (key and pendulum)
Not until Christian Baulez's 1989 article were the origins of this popular model fully researched. In his article Baulez identified that the first known version was commissioned by Madame de Geoffrin (1699-1777), a leading figure in the French Enlightenment. Her notebooks referred to it as 'ma pendula de Guyard', which has now been identified as Laurent Guiard (1723-1788), much celebrated following his January 1754 exhibition at Versailles of the equestrian statue of Louis XV. Her clock was most likely commissioned later in the same year. Another version which she commissioned in 1768 was presented to Denis Diderot, now at the Musée du Breuil de Saint-Germain at Langres. In his article Baulez suggests that the female figure representing 'The Employment of Time' is possibly inspired by the 1738 portrait of Madame Geoffrin by Jean-Marc Nattier (d. 1766), titled 'Study'.
Madame Geoffrin played host to many of the most influential Philosophes and Encyclopédistes of her time such as Diderot, who popularised, by association this model of clock. Significantly the English purchasers, inculding Walpole, were Whigs, and opposed to George III's policies.
A similar example with a movement by Le Roy, raised on an ebony base is at Waddesdon Manor, illustrated, G. de Bellaigue, The James A. de Rothschild Collection at Waddesdon Manor, Fribourg, 1974, Vol.I, no. 17, pp. 104-107. Another, with movement by Berthoud, also on an ebony base and with a patinated bronze figure, is in the Wallace Collection, illustrated, P. Hughes, The Wallace Collection, Catalogue of Furniture, London, 1996, Vol. I, no. 99 (F267), pp. 440-443.
The clock, once in the collection of Horace Walpole, was sold Christie's, London, 23 June 199, lot 120.
There are a number of free-hand marks and notes on the movement:
1. On the movement's front plate 'Cariel Le 26 Mai 1828'.
2. The brass dial-mounting plate has a scratch mark 'Gille l'Aine A Paris..Le grande figure couche'.
3. The reverse of the enamel dial is inscribed in a light red ink 'Le Faucheur Hor. Du Roy A Paris', perhaps the dial maker's note; there is also another indistinct name?
C. Baulez, 'La Pendule à la Geoffrin: Un modele succès', L'Estampille L'Objet d'Art, April 1989, pp. 34-41