This monumental portico clock of unusual scale is in the shape of a triumphal arch made of two white marble obelisks from which the movement is suspended.
The ring-shaped skeleton dial indicates the days of the month from 1 to 31, written in red on its outer border, the days of the week written in full in red on its inner border or represented by their astronomical symbol in blue (Monday day of the moon, Wednesday day of March, Friday day of Venus etc…), the hours in Arabic numerals and the minutes in increments of 15. The anchor escapement movement strikes the hours and halves on a silvered bell. Blade suspension modified in the 19th century. Sun pendulum with Apollo mask.
The rich decoration of finely chased and gilded bronzes consists of weapon trophies, Nimean lion’s coat, but also cannonballs held in chains. The movement is topped by a helmeted warrior, in a toga and armour, who represents the god Mars holding a shield. The allegorical language of this decor combines the codes of triumphal architecture with those of military victory. The two marble obelisks are surrounded by gilded bronze bollards connected by chains. They are crowned by marble spheres, surmounted by a stylized fleur-de-lis, the French heraldic symbol, in gilded bronze. Mars, who is at the top of the composition is the god of war; its shield is adorned with Jupiter's thunderbolt, a symbol of invincibility. The two Nimean lion’s coat evoke the first of the twelve Labours of Heracles, victorious over this reputedly invincible beast, as well as they represent the English heraldic Lion. Weapon trophies traditionally consist of weapons confiscated from the vanquished, while cannonballs on chains, named chains shots were generally used by the Navy to shot masts on enemies ship.
The fashion for these portico clocks with obelisks in the shape of a triumphal arch adorned with war trophies had spread in France in the 1780s, following the Peace of Versailles signed in 1783 by Great Britain, with France, Spain and the United Provinces and the Peace of Paris, signed the same day between Great Britain and thirteen American colonies, which ended the United States War of Independence. These military allegories are a tribute to the French victories won alongside the American insurgents and to the end of hostilities between France and the United Kingdom.
Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) while he was in Paris as Minister to France between 1784 and 1789 had a clock of a similar design in the office of his Parisian residence, where it was stolen. Soon after returning from France in 1789 he ordered a simplified replica of this clock from Paris, which he designed himself and which he wanted in black marble and without gilded bronze. This clock supplied by Chaintrot was delivered to Monticello in 1791, where it is still housed in Jefferson bedchamber.
For a clock of similar size, with identical decoration see, Collection of the Dukes of Mortemart at the Château du Réveillon, Sotheby's Paris on 02/11/2015, lot N ° 25.
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