A dynamic sculpture in gilded and burnished bronze
The gilt bronze dial with Roman numerals centred by the figures of Mars and Diana with a pair of blued steel Breguet style hands for the hours and minutes mounted at the base of an oak tree trunk.
Jason wearing a helmet, tunic and sandals, the hero standing on the dragon that he has just killed with the sword still held in his hand, with the arm outstretched to grasp the golden fleece; the dragon lies on the ground, confused between the folds of Jason’s cloak which descends to cover the base of the rectangular Verde Antico marble base on gilt lion paw feet.
Despite its considerable structural complexity, the artist played on the relationship between gilded and burnished bronze; the sculpture presents a dynamic momentum in the figure of Jason, the only protagonist, who stands out against the background of the massive burnished trunk of the broken oak, recognizable by some branches with the characteristic acorns.
The quality is outstanding and visible in the differences between the matte and polished gilt parts enlivening the whole beautifully. The realistic posture of Jason completes this striking clock from the Empire period. The excellence of this superb clock leads to the atelier of Pierre-François Feuchère.
Pierre-François Feuchère (1737–1828) became a master in the guild of doreurs in Paris in 1763.
From 1819, he is listed in the Almanac as ‘ciseleur-doreur sur tous métaux, des bâtiments du roi, breveté des menus plaisirs et du garde-meuble de la couronne’.
From 1784, he was assisted by his son, Lucien-François Feuchère, and they supplied gilt-bronze objects to the Royal Court of Louis XVI and the seats of the European aristocracy, including the Residenz Munich, Würzburg and the Schwarzenberg Palais, Vienna.
The movement has an anchor escapement, silk thread suspension, striking on the hour and half-hour on a single bell, with outside count wheel. In the early Jason’s clocks, a bronze cap on the back of the tree hides access to the mechanics, not the typical circular ring that fixes the movement to the case used in the later models. Another refinement found in this work is the attention paid to the realization of the movement with the winding holes placed under the dial figures of Mars and Diana.
Jason and the Golden Fleece
Greek mythology tells that in Thessaly, in the city of Iolcus, Pelias reigned, who by deceit had killed his brother Aeson and usurped his kingdom. But Aeson, when he was about to die, fearing for his son Jason, entrusted him to the centaur Chiron who hid him on Mount Pelio.
After twenty years, Jason, a young man who excelled among his peers for physical strength and nobility of soul, returned to Iolcus to take back the kingdom from his uncle. But Pelias said, “I will restore your kingdom to you if you bring me back the golden fleece which is kept in Colchis”.
Since that undertaking was very challenging, Jason chose as expeditionary companions the strongest heroes of his time and, on the advice of the goddess Athena, built a fast boat, which he named Argos. After arriving in Colchis, he, with the help of the sorceress Medea, tamed the fire-breathing bulls and, after killing the fearsome dragon, took the golden fleece and brought it to Pelias.
Over the years, the story inspired many artists, including the Neo-classical sculptor Bertel Thorvaldsen, whose marble statue of Jason with the Golden Fleece (1803) is now in the Thorvaldsens Museum, Copenhagen.
- An identical clock is in the Musée de Malmaison, while another in the Palacio Real in Madrid was supplied to the Spanish royal family.
- Pierre Kjellberg, “Encyclopédie de la Pendule Française du Moyen Age au XXe Siècle”, 1997, p. 413, illustrating an identical clock and pp. 362-3, illustrating a detail of the latter.
- Elke Niehüser, “Die Französische Bronzeuhr”, 1997, p. 64, pl. 91, illustrating another identical clock by Pierre-François Feuchère.
- Bernard Chevallier, “Decors d’Empire”, 2008, p. 34, illustrating an identical clock.
- Hans Ottomeyer and Peter Pröschel, “Vergoldete Bronzen”, 1986, p. 351, pl. 5.7.6, illustrating a comparable clock by Pierre-Victor Ledure (b. 1783 d. post 1840) showing Jason standing more upright, the dial also differs as does the drapery and positioning of the dragon.
- Ramon Colon de Carvajal, Catalogo de Relojes del Patrimonio Nacional, Madrid 1987; p. 186, pl. 166, illustrating an identical model.