Enfilade

Happy Bastille Day

Posted in Art Market by Editor on July 14, 2011

One exquisite indication of just how complicated time could be in the French Republic (and perhaps how emphatically phallic the Empire style could be). . .

Estimated to fetch between £200,000 and 300,000, this remarkable clock sold for £322,400

An exceptional and historically important early 19th century French ormolu automata clock with eight enamel dials by Joseph Coteau including full Republican and Gregorian calendars, age- and phase- of the moon, time of sunrise and sunset, equation of time, world time and signs of the Zodiac. Almost certainly made for the ‘Seconde exposition publique des produits de l’industrie francaise’ held in the courtyard of the Louvre from the 19th to the 25th September 1801.

Press release from Bonham’s:

An historic and rare clock believed to have been designed for Napoleon’s ‘Exposition publique des produits de l’industrie Francaise’ in 1801 and which has lain undiscovered in Europe for two centuries, is to be sold at Bonhams, New Bond Street, as part of its sale of Fine Clocks and Watches on 28 June 2011. Estimated at £200,000 – 300,000, the clock was designed by French clock maker, Hartmann, and uses the Republican calendar, the decimal time system put into effect in 1793.

Napoleon established the ‘exposition’ in 1798 to showcase France’s burgeoning industry. In 1801, the exposition was held in the courtyard of the Louvre and it is recorded that, in this exhibition, a clock maker named Hartmann of 9 rue de Vannes gained an honourable mention for a clock with eight dials which showed the rising and setting of the sun and the moon phase. It is almost certain that this clock, the clock shown to the Emperor, is the very clock that Bonhams will be selling on 28 June.

The clock is signed Hartmann, Paris, invenit et fecit, and the eight enamel dials were made by the foremost dial maker of the day, Joseph Coteau. One of the dials features the months, which were named according to the prevailing conditions, such as ‘grape harvest’, ‘foggy’, ‘snowy’ and ‘frosty’, a system that was introduced after the French Revolution and was mocked in Britain with people referring to the months as wheezy, sneezy, breezy; slippy, drippy and nippy; showery, flowery and bowery; and wheaty, heaty and sweety… Indeed the time system did not prove popular in France either and by 1806 it was dropped, having lasted 13 years.

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Sales results, from a Bonham’s press release:

The highly anticipated sale of an historic and rare clock believed to have been designed for Napoleon’s ‘Exposition publique des produits de l’industrie Francaise’ in 1801, did not disappoint. Having lain undiscovered in Europe for two centuries, it had been estimated at £200,000–300,000 and sold for an excellent £322,400.

In some ways, however, the real star was this seventeenth-century clock:

A highly important, recently discovered, English ebony bracket clock attributed to Ahasuerus Fromanteel sold for a remarkable £692,000 on 28 June at Bonhams, New Bond Street, as part of its sale of Fine Clocks and Watches. The clock, which was found in a private European collection in mid-May this year, and had been in the same family since the 1950s, had attracted a pre-sale estimate of £200,000 – 300,000.