A Directoire Ormolu Mantel Clock representing America, signed by Armingaud L’Aine

A Directoire Ormolu Mantel Clock representing America, signed by Armingaud L’Aine

c. 1795 France

Offered by Frank Partridge

£65,000 gbp
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The clock case is surmounted by the seated figure of an Indian with a bow in one hand and a spear in the
other, resting her feet on the head of an alligator, with a palm tree to the side. The case rests on an arched
architectural base, set in the angles with chased ormolu palm branches, with a border of blue enamel
roundels and resting on four stylised lion’s paw feet. The rectangular base is applied on the front with a
panel chased with putti in the manner of Clodion
The plain enamel dial is inscribed with Roman numerals for the hours and Arabic for the minutes. It has
pierced gilt hands and a beaded ormolu border. It is inscribed Armingaud L’Aine a Paris. The eight-day
movement strikes the hours and half hours; it has silk suspension, anchor escapement and countwheel
A comparatively large number of clocks were made at the end of the 18th and the early
19th century in this style. Several related examples are illustrated by Elke Niehuser (1997,
pp. 147 and 148, pls. 237-9). She attributes the design of them to Jean-Simon Deverberie.
Jean-Dominique Augarde (1996, p.158,pl.125) illustrates another clock, which includes
two Indians and he states that many similar clocks cases were made by Jean-Simon
Deverberie between about 1795 and 1820. In 1799 Deverberie registered a series of
designs for clocks at the bibliotheque Nationale, including the figures of the four
continents. The America clock is illustrated by Hans Ottomeyer and Peter Proschel (1986,
In the period after the French Revolution there was a great enthusiasm for clocks
including Indians or blackamoors, which were described at the time as ‘a l’americane’.
One of the first known references to the genre is in the 1775 inventory taken following the
death of the fondeur Louis-Gabriel Feloix. Other examples include personifications of
Africa, Robinson Crusoe and Man Friday, and Paul and Virginie from Bernadin de
St.Pierre’s Paul et Virginie (1787).
From the 17th century onwards, the continent of America was personified as an Indian
with a feathered head-dress and with a caiman or alligator at her feet. These clocks have
their roots in the ideas of Jean-Jacques Rousseau in particular and were intended to signify
the nobility of man in his natural state: the noble savage. This was also the time of the
fight for the abolition of slavery, the decree of which was passed by the Convention in
1793, and the ideas propounded by the abolitionists must also have been highly influential.
All these clocks depict idealised, charming savages dressed in picturesque costumes that are, of course, divorced from the reality.
Height 65.00 cm (25.59 inches)
Width 41.00 cm (16.14 inches)
Depth 13.00 cm (5.12 inches)
Ormolu clock
Frank Partridge

Frank Partridge
5 Frederic Mews

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