Jean-Gabriel Imbert l’Aîné

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Due to their superlative quality clocks by Jean-Gabriel Imbert, known as Imbert l’Aîné (1735-95) were acquired by the wealthiest ranks of society such as the marquis de Brunoy and the duc de Deux-Ponts. Examples from his outstanding oeuvre can now be seen at the Musée de Carnavalet in Paris, the Patrimonio Nacional in Spain, the Residenzmuseum in Munich and the Palazzo Reale in Turin. Born in Devalon in the Bourgogne, Imbert l’Aîné travelled during his youth to Paris, where he worked as a compagnon for his brother-in-law, Jean-Charles Olin (husband of Imbert’s sister Anne). He worked firstly as an ouvrier-libre (i.e. a worker independent of a guild) before being received as a Parisian maître-horloger in 1776 and as testament to his standing among fellow colleagues was then appointed a deputé of his guild in 1780. Four years later however he declared bankruptcy but this did not prevent his continuation in business. For many years his younger brother Jean Edme, known as Imbert le Jeune (1741-1808), who was never received as a maître, worked with him at his various addresses. By 1767 Imbert l’Aîné was established at Carrefour de la Roquette, by 1781 at rue Planche-Mibray, three years later at rue des Arcis and at the time of his death in June 1795 at rue de Monceau.
As one of the best in his trade Imbert l’Aîné demanded equally fine suppliers, who included Humbert Droz of Switzerland from whom he acquired a number of watches. Richard and Gaspard Monginot supplied his springs while his dials were generally made by Georges-Adrien Merlet, Bezelle or as here by the renowned enamellist Elie Barbezat. Barbezat was among the best Parisian enamellists to specialise in the production of clock dials; he supplied a number of other leading Parisian clockmakers including Jean-André Lepaute, Antoine Crosnier and probably Julien Le Roy.
Imbert’s clock cases were made by a range of Parisian fondeurs in particular Robert and Jean-Baptiste Osmond, Nicolas Bonnet, Michel Poisson, François Vion, Jean Goyer, René-François Morlay and as here by Léonard Mary, while some were gilded by Le Cat and H. Martin. The present case is extremely rare since it is one of, if not, the only known clock case to have been made by the Mary foundry. The maître fondeur Léonard Mary was established at rue Saint-Nicolas when he was recorded as supplying work to Jean-Joseph Saint-Germain in 1748.

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