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Lot 29: AN ORMOLU-MOUNTED S&EGRAVE;VRES HARD-PASTE PORCELAIN CLOCKCIRCA 1780, THE MOVEMENT CIRCA 1830-50
Treasures, Princely Taste
July 3, 2013
London, United Kingdom
Description: in the form of a classical portico, the glazed tessellated floor painted in grey and white, an ormolu putto in pilgrim's dress standing before the double doors, the biscuit Doric columns entwined with laurel, their bases painted en grisaille with trophies, the sides with burning braziers, the portico surmounted by an acanthus-cast ormolu drum containing a later bell striking movement, the enamel dial signed Revel a Paris, the porcelain with gilt crowned interlaced Ls and date letter BB 42.5cm, 16 3/4 in high
Notes: Though the Sèvres factory produced many plaques to be fitted into gold boxes, furniture and clocks1, complete clocks in porcelain are very rare indeed. Only one model of a Sèvres porcelain clock was previously known, recorded in the factory archives as 'colonnes à pendule' for the first time in 1772. An example is in the Royal Collection2, and another one in the Wallace Collection3. This clock was unidentified until very recently, but new research has now successfully identified it from the factory records as the unique clock made for the marchand-mercier Monsieur Heroy. The clock is first mentioned in the registres des travaux de porcelaine (work records), when the repareur Charles Godin père worked extensively in October / November / December 17794 on a clock stand (porte pendule) and on chapiteaux (capitals). The record also mentions that the clock was modelled by Josse Francois Leriche, pupil of Etienne Falconet, who was to become head of the sculptors' studio from 1780 to 1801. On 24th April 17805, the kiln records mention the firing of a biscuit clock with "guirlandes en or et parquet peint" [gilt garlands and a painted tile floor]. The piece was then sent to the burnishing workshop on 6th May 1780, where the decoration was carried out by two of the most talented painters of the factory: Pierre-Louis Philippe Armand le Jeune for the gilding, and Charles Buteux père for the tile floor. Buteux is then also mentioned in the painters' records of the factory, on 18th March 17806, for painting 'un pied d'estal pour la pendule de M Heroy / mozaique en gris' [a pedestal for Mr Heroy's clock/ mosaic in grey]. The clock seems thus to have been specifically commissioned by Monsieur Heroy, and worked upon by the best artists of the factory. Between 1779 and 1781, the name of the Parisian marchand-mercier Monsieur Heroy appears on the selling records, amongst other merchants who were buying Sevres porcelain for their stock and who had a privileged discount of 9%. In the first semester of 1780, he was invoiced for goods to the value of 1,496 livres, including the clock for a substantial 600 livres7. This was to be the most expensive piece ever acquired by Heroy. In the event, it seems that this ambitious commission did not find a patron among Heroy's clients, and it was listed in the bankruptcy stock list made on 23 January 1783, whereupon all trace of its existence was lost until its recent rediscovery. Nöel-Alexandre Heroy was born in 1747 to a family of rich Parisian merchants, originally butchers, and trained as a clockmaker with Bernard Joseph Bel, in the rue de Harlay (île de la Cité). He became master in May 1778 but had already signed a contract before to set up a partnership with his sister Marie Félicitée to develop a business of 'horlogerie, bijouterie et mercerie'. In 1779, they decided to extend the business to porcelain and moved to larger premises rue Saint Nicaise, and then rue du Temple. From July 1779, Heroy bought stock regularly from the Sèvres factory, probably under the influence of Marie-Félicité, as he is not mentioned in the Sevres archives after May 1781, the month of his sister's death. The business seems then to have gone into decline, and following a stock list completed on 23 January 1783 Heroy was declared bankrupt on 4 February 17848. We are grateful to Bernard Dragesco for the information he kindly provided. 1. See an example at the Wallace Collection, R. Savill, The Wallace Collection, catalogue of Sèvres Porcelain, London, 1988., p. 860-863 2. G. de Bellaigue, French Porcelain in the collection of Her Majesty the Queen, 2009, cat. 281. 3. R. Savill, The Wallace Collection, catalogue of Sèvres Porcelain, London, 1988., p. 792-793. 4. Archives de la Manufacture de Sèvres, Registre Va'4, Va'5, Va'6. 5. Archives de la Manufacture de Sèvres, Registre Vl'1, fº 101vº, fº106 6. Archives de la Manufacture de Sèvres, Registre Vj'1, fº 37, fº38 vº 7. Archives de la Manufacture de Sèvres, Registre Vy7, fº 263 8. Marie-Agnès Dequidt, Temps et Société: les horlogers parisiens (1750-1850), Thèse de doctorat, Université Paris-Est Créteil, 2010.