An extremely fine Directoire gilt and patinated bronze Pendule 'Au Chasseur Améridien' of eight day duration by Gautier, signed on the white enamel dial Gautier à Paris. The dial with Roman and Arabic numerals and a fine pair of gilt brass hands for the hours and minutes. The movement with anchor escapement, silk thread suspension, striking on the hour and half hour on a single bell, with outside count wheel.
The superb case with dial and milled foliate bezel set within a rectangular gilt bronze plinth with concave upper sides, surmounted by a chariot, its wheels with internal rosette mounted cut out spokes, set either side of the dial drum, the chariot supporting the figure of a native American hunter with white enamel eyes and wearing a plumed headdress and matching feathered skirt, hoop earrings, gilt arm bands and holding in his left hand a bow, and arrow in his outstretched right hand, with a quiver of arrows slung across his back, the hunter with straddled legs seated on a plinth mounted with a lion head mask, while looking to the left and having a dead eagle at his left foot and by his right foot a mythical winged beast with the head and clawed feet of a lion and forked serpentine tail while holding the reins of the chariot in his mouth. The patinated bronze plinth below the dial lavishly ornamented with gilt bronze mounts symbolising commerce with three black skinned putti amid rocks, a waterfall, palm trees and a hut, one putto with a bow and arrow, another seated with a dog and the other having just caught a fish, the plinth on a rectangular base on four turned feet
Paris, date circa 1800
Height 52 cm, width 38 cm, depth 14 cm
Although rare, identical models of this imposing clock symbolising the Discovery of America or the New World, can be found at the Musée du Nouveau-Monde at La Rochelle as well as the Musée du François Duesberg in Mons, Belgium. The latter collection also houses a variant model which, instead of a chariot features an ancient type of boat with a wolf's head at its stern.
The clock case itself reflects as fascinating period in history when, during the age of the Enlightenment, eighteenth century European society began questioning the morality and standards of its own civilisation in relation to the seeming innocence and untouched nature of those that lived in faraway exotic lands. This gave rise to the notion of le bon sauvage or noble savage as aired by Jean-Jacques Rousseau, whose 'Discourse on the Origin of Inequality', 1754 proposed that beauty and innocence of nature was extended from plants and trees. In 1767 the French explorer Bougainville arrived in Tahiti followed by Captain Cook in 1769. They returned with two of the islanders, Aotourous and Omai. The latter was taken to London where he was received by King George III and was painted by the celebrated portraitist Sir Joshua Reynolds. After hearing of the happy and harmonious life of the South Sea islanders, soon the brightest wits of Paris and London began to question their own corrupt European society in relation to the innocence of the native islanders. The notion of le bon sauvage also inspired some fine literary works such as Paul et Virginie (1787) by Bernardin de Saint-Pierre and Atala (1801) by Vicomte de Chateaubriand, which were the subject of some superb clock cases and like Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe (1719) or Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels (1724) encapsulated Europe's fascination with the exotic.
While the theme of the noble savage gained momentum during the end of the eighteenth century and continued during the early years of the next, Europeans had already begun portraying likenesses of the natives of America back in the sixteenth century, even though some of the representations were not entirely accurate. One of the earliest examples appeared on a carved choir screen dating from circa 1510, made for the chapel of the Normandy Château de Gaillon, which included two male figures wearing feathered skirts and headdresses. Likewise, a slightly earlier German engraving known as 'The First representation of the People of the New World', from Amerigo Vespucci, published in 1505, portrays the Tupinamba people of Brazil dressed in feathered headdresses and skirts. Bearded men carried bows and a spear while a group of women and children are seen feasting on parts of an unfortunate Portuguese traveller who is being roasted on an open fire.
Not all who encountered the Tupinambas suffered the same fate. For instance, the German explorer Hans Staden, who was captured by them in 1557, managed to survive and having returned to Europe, he published an illustrated account of his adventures, which provided European society with a wealth of information about these people. At about the same time as Staden's capture, two Frenchmen André Thevet and Jean de Léry, who had been involved with the short lived French colony near present day Rio de Janeiro, also reported their experiences of the New World in separate publications.
Likewise, during his voyages to America during the 1580s, the English artist John White made records of the Algonquians, who lived along the North Carolina coast and Roanoke Island. From the 1590s and based on White's watercolours, Theodore de Bry of Frankfurt began publishing a series of engravings, which like the gathering number of written publications helped inform European society of this distant civilisation. Alongside them, Europeans also began featuring personifications of the Four Continents, namely America, Africa, Asia and Europe (Australia not having yet been discovered). At first visual representations of the Four Continents appeared as engravings or in paintings but in time they inspired other arts, from porcelain, silver and clock cases. America was presented in the graphic arts as an Indian princess, sometimes wearing a crown or headdress, bejewelled anklets and feathered skirts and occasionally with a bow and arrows. Sometimes accompanied by an alligator, she was eventually and more generally represented as a beautiful dark skinned figure, with facial features that appear more African than American Indian. In contrast, America is here personified by a handsome native hunter who having just shot down an eagle is also shown as master over the mythical beast that pulls his chariot. Below him on the plinth is a scene representing commerce in the form of three native children who hunt and fish amid an idealised landscape.
11 000 €
11 000 €