Robert Robin (1741-1799)
Joseph Coteau (1740-1812)
Case attributed to Pierre-Philippe Thomire
Probably made under the Supervision of Dominique Daguerre
An Exceptional Desk Regulator with “remontoir d’égalité”
Paris, Louis XVI period, circa 1783
Height 38.2 cm; width 21.7 cm; depth 17.1 cm
This exceptional desk, or mantel regulator, is one of the most luxurious Parisian clocks of the latter part of the reign of Louis XVI. Its complex movement with complications has a Graham escapement and a constant force remontoir d’égalité, with a bimetallic gridiron pendulum and two weights, with instructions for winding indicated on the back of the front door: “Remonté à gauche” (Wind to the left). The magnificent neoclassical architectural case is made of finely chased gilt bronze with matte finishing. All four sides, as well as the top, are glazed so that the complex movement may be admired. The case, which is raised on four quadrangular feet, is elaborately adorned with molding on the chapter and the base, with a toothed frieze decorating the slightly protruding cornice, a bead frieze adorning the bezel, acanthus and laurel leaf spandrels, recessed molded matte frames, and a magnificent chased drapery with fringe and a leafy garland under the dial.
The dial, signed “Robin Hger du Roi”, is a true masterpiece; it also bears the signature of the most renowned enameller of the day, Joseph Coteau (the counter-enamel bears the name “Coteau” and the date “1783”. It indicates the Roman numeral hours, the Arabic five-minute intervals, the seconds, the date, the months, and the equation of time, which shows the difference between true time and mean time. Along its outermost border it features the twelve polychrome signs of the zodiac within oval medallions surrounded by delicate interlacing foliage embellished with flowers and cabochons within arabesque frames. The indications are given by five hands, two of which are made of pierced and gilt bronze. Three others, including the equation of time hand, are made of blued steel.
The present clock may be considered an example of the quintessence of Parisian luxury horology during the reign of Louis XVI. Such clocks were made for a handful of important connoisseurs, often people who were close to the royal family. Certain contemporary documents afford information about the collectors who owned such masterpieces. One such clock was mentioned in the probate inventory of Denis-Pierre-Jean Papillon de la Ferté, the director of the Menus Plaisirs du Roi; it was sold in February 1797: “305. A square clock, with glazed panels, a half-second movement, with equation, remontoire and striking, made by Robin”. A second clock was described several years previously, shortly before the Revolution, in the inventory of Queen Marie-Antoinette’s horological collection, which was maintained by Robin. In it one finds a model that appears to be nearly identical to the present clock: “28. A square clock with architectural case and glazed panels, in gilt and matte bronze, with a compensation pendulum, hours, minutes, seconds, striking, with date, day of the week, and the figures of the zodiac painted in miniature on the dial, with the name of Robin” (see P. Verlet, Les bronzes dorés français du XVIIIe siècle, Paris, 1999, p. 466).
Only a few similar regulators are known to exist today; most bear the signatures of the clockmaker Robin and the enameller Coteau, who both collaborated on the clock, probably at the request of one of the great marchands-merciers of the time, such as Simon-Philippe Poirier and his associate Dominique Daguerre, the two most famous purveyors of Parisian luxury items. Among the rare models known today, one example now in a private collection is pictured in D. Roberts, Precision Pendulum Clocks, 2004, p. 32. Two regulators made by Robin, formerly in the Winthrop Kellogg Edey collection, are now in the Frick Collection in New York; their cases are attributed to the renowned bronzier Pierre-Philippe Thomire (Inv. 1999.5.150 and 1999.5.151) (illustrated respectively in Tardy, La pendule française, 2ème Partie : Du Louis XVI à nos jours, Paris, 1975, and in C. Vignon, The Frick Collection Decorative Arts Handbook, New York, Scala, 2015).
Robert Robin (1741-1799)
After becoming a master horologist in November 1767, he was one of the most important Parisian horologists of the last third of the 18th century. Having received the honorary titles of Valet de Chambre-Horloger Ordinaire du Roi et de la Reine in 1783 and 1786, he enjoyed an extraordinary career and distinguished himself by his exceptional contribution toward the improvement of time measurement instruments. In 1778, the Academy of Sciences approved two of his inventions, one of which led to the construction of an astronomic clock with a meridian traced on a pyramid, which was acquired by the Menus Plaisirs for Louis XVI that same year; Robin published a very detailed historical and mechanical description of that clock. He also created mantel regulators with astronomic indications and compensation balance; the Marquis de Courtanvaux, a man of science and a great connoisseur of precision horology, was one of the earliest acquirers of such pieces. During the Revolution, he made decimal watches and clocks. He worked in the Grande rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré (1772), the rue des Fossés-Saint-Germain l'Auxerrois (1775), the Hôtel d'Aligre in the rue Saint-Honoré (1778) and the Galeries du Louvre in 1786. For his desk regulators, Robin chose very sober architectural cases, which have an extraordinarily modern look for today’s observers. He continued to work with the finest artisans of the day, including the bronziers and chasers Robert and Jean Baptiste Osmond, Pierre Philippe Thomire, François Rémond and Claude Galle, the cabinetmakers Jean-Henri Riesener, Ferdinand Schwerdfeger and Adam Weisweiler, the enamellers Barbezat, Dubuisson, Merlet and Coteau for the dials, and Richard and Montginot for the springs. The two sons of Robert Robin, Nicolas Robert (1775-1812) and Jean-Joseph (1781-1856), were also fine clockmakers and ably continued to run their father’s workshop.
Price : on request
25 000 €
Price : on request
Price : on request