France, circa 1810 -1820
France, circa 1810 -1820
Table clock with a handmaid
Mercury gilded bronze, alt. cm 59,5 x 40,5 x 13
Signed in the quadrant "Sezille Palais Royal Nº 133 à Paris"
Akin to the prevailing taste of the Napoleonic era that envisaged a return to antiquity, the Empire Style was used for the decoration of furniture, architectural structures, furnishings, wall hangings and fabrics. The style envisaged a classical return to order, embellished by the antiquarian whimsy inspired by the recent archaeological discoveries at Herculaneum and Pompeii: the constant Roman and Hellenistic remembrance was celebrated through applications depicting laurel or oak garlands, imperial symbolism, mythological figures, sphinxes, muses, personifications and more.
This watch organises the mechanical case on a parallelepiped supporting structure, subdivided into two parts connected by a sinuous greek decoration with flowers; the whole structure rests on the plane by means of convex feet decorated with a dense network of small flowers inscribed within a modular rhombus, culminating, in the attachment to the central body of the watch, with a theory of palmettes. The upper part of the parallelepiped body, inscribed with mythological figuration like the ancient stelae, encloses the latter with a frame of stylised palm leaves interspersed with discs of flowers, in turn accompanied, on the two vertical sides, by a lively vegetal triumph. Considering the iconographic range used by the bronzeworkers for the decoration of the clocks, it is possible to recognise in the mythological scene depicted the muse of poetry and music, Calliope, accompanied by the attributes of the lyre and the laurel branch, used to pay homage to poets. The two winged geniuses in front of her carry scrolls and plates on which to engrave the verses the muse dictates daily to men; the reward for human intellect is emphasised by the two similar crowns the muse holds in her hands, depicting a serpent biting its tail. This symbol, which the mediaeval era would borrow from the Hellenistic-Roman environment of Gnosticism by creating the figure of the uroboros, metaphorically manifests the purpose of the clock, being used to personify the eternal return of time and the cyclical nature of the material life of men.
The case of the watch is enclosed in a zither, which is flanked by a woman crowned with laurel; the upper part has two griffin heads in correspondence with the arms of the zither, and a second female face crowned with a ring of petals/rays, again alluding to the sublime elevation of poetry. On the right side of the instrument rests a lighted torch accompanied by an extinguished upside-down torch, an allusion to present well-being, victorious over the failings of life, to which the bust of a philosopher in a disc also alludes. The dial has a porcelain ring while the hands are Breuguet. Mechanism with "anchor" escapement with silk-wire pendulum and chime with "partiora" system, sounding at the passage of the hours and half-hours.
The signature on the watch, “Sezille Palais Royal n°133 à Paris”, indicating the manufacture, allows the work to be dated between 1820 and 1841, the years in which Louis Sézille, a watchmaker, worked in the 'Palais Royal' in Rue du Marché Neuf, Galerie de Pierre 133.
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