An extraordinary piece
This Louis XIV Cartel d’aplique exemplifies the zenith of opulence, its intricate form adorned with elaborate gilded bronze ornamentation. It is a paragon of Boulle marquetry, where the adroit interplay of écaille (tortoiseshell) and brass inlays unfolds in a testament to the consummate craftsmanship of the era.
André-Charles Boulle, a pioneer in the art of furniture and decorative clocks, revolutionized marquetry in 1690. His innovative techniques of brass and tortoiseshell inlay, which involved the simultaneous cutting of metal and contrasting materials like écaille, enabled the creation of mirrored designs, one dominated by metal, the other by écaille, both of extraordinary complexity and beauty.
Jacques Thuret, a titan of French horology
The clock, created by the renowned Jacques Thuret (1669-1738), a titan of French horology, continues the tradition of excellence started by his father, Isaac Thuret, the famous court clockmaker of King Louis XIV.
After his father’s demise in 1694, Jacques rose to the pinnacle of Parisian society, establishing himself in the prestigious Grande Galerie. His marriage in 1703 to Louise Marguerite Bérain further solidified his connection with royal art and mechanics.
Thuret’s works, admired for their aesthetic refinement and mechanical prowess, are more than mere instruments to measure time; they are true symbols of artistic beauty. Today, these ‘Thuret’ signed masterpieces grace the collections of prestigious institutions such as the Science Museum in London and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
Dial: White in porcelain and bronze with black Roman numerals, encircled by intricate gilded bronze work with floral and ornamental motifs.
The clock is embellished with details that make it a true work of art
- Gilded Bronze Mount: The elaborate mount not only highlights the inlays but also bestows an aura of majesty on the clock.
- Boulle Marquetry: The inlay of écaille and brass creates contrasting patterns and complex decorations, producing a rich and three-dimensional visual effect.
- Allegorical and Mythological Decorations: Figures such as Fame and allegories of Vanity or Night, all adorned with radiant beams, add symbolism and narrative.
Female face medallion
Beneath the clock’s dial, there is a central medallion in finely chiseled gilded bronze, depicting a classical female face, emulating the beauty ideal of the era. The figure is framed by a crown of laurel leaves and flowers, symbols of victory and celebration, which extend in a symmetrical composition of scrolls and curls, showcasing the vitality of the Baroque style and the skill of the bronze craftsmen of that time.
The gilded sphinxes at the ends of the double console supporting the clock represent mythological figures embodying mystery and knowledge. These creatures, with the bust of a woman and the body of a lion, symbolize both strength and cunning. The sphinx, often used in Baroque art to represent protection and wisdom, contributes to the enigma and authority of the clock, being a powerful symbol that connects to the very essence of time that the clock is meant to measure.
Exquisitely crafted clock
Atop the clock sits a winged statue, a symbol of transcendence and divinity. This figure, often associated with Fame or the Angel of Time, is a nod to the celestial and eternal nature of time itself. Its spread wings suggest flight and freedom, while its elevated position above the clock itself serves to remind us of human aspiration towards the infinite and immortality.
The clock’s console, exquisitely crafted and detailed in the provided image, features a central mascaron similar to that beneath the dial, surrounded by intricate floral and foliate motifs that branch out into lavishly decorated scrolls. The meticulous application of gilding on these elements reflects light, creating a play of brilliance that changes with the observer’s perspective and underscores the craftsmanship of artisans from the era of Louis XIV.
The double console, with its scrolls and ornamental details, not only physically supports the clock but also adds a level of majesty and splendor, affirming the clock as an object of significant artistic and historical value.
Situated within the historical and cultural context of Paris, around 1710-1715, this clock transcends its function of time measurement, becoming a symbol of art and elegance, a tribute to the craftsmanship and splendor of the Louis XIV era. With its presence, it tells the story of an era in which art and science were intertwined, creating objects of immeasurable cultural and historical value.