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A Rare Louis XVI Gilt and Patinated Bronze Mantle Clock signed Ferdinand Berthoud

A Rare Louis XVI Gilt and Patinated Bronze Mantle Clock signed Ferdinand Berthoud


Status: On Hold

  • Late 18th Century

  • Inv Number:
  • #2014


Depicting the personification of knowledge, on a plinth cast with molded guilloche and corner floral medallions, the clock decorated with symbols of knowledge and education, a patinated bronze putto sitting atop a stack of books, depicted studying while holding a scroll and a pen, leaning against the clock, and a celestial sphere with a sundial and calipers to one side, the clock signed on the enamel dial and the movement. The fact that Ferdinand Berthoud made the present clocks face and movement certainly adds to its importance since he was one of the greatest makers of his day whose inventions, innovations and writings significantly advanced the quest for precision timekeeping. Born in Plancemont, Switzerland, the son of an architect and judiciary, in 1741 Berthoud began a three-year apprenticeship as a clockmaker under his brother, Jean-Henri. He subsequently went to Paris, where it is thought he studied under Julien Le Roy. Even before he was received as a maitre in 1754, Berthoud had established repute; in 1752 when aged 25 he won great acclaim when he presented one of his clocks with a perpetual calendar and also indicating mean and solar time at the Academie des Sciences. Two years later he made his first marine chronometer (sent for trial in 1761) and in 1764 was appointed a member of the Royal Society, London and Horloger Mecanicien de Sa Majeste et de la Marine ayant linspection de la construction des Horloges Marines. The position was of considerable importance especially at a time when the race to find longitude was the social and political talk of Europe. From 1766 Berthoud was put in charge of designing all timepieces used on board the French Royal Fleet. He was a member of several important committees including a commission to establish a Royal Clock Factory in Paris (1786), a juror responsible for deciding questions concerning the new time system (1793) and a member of the Temporary Commission for the Arts (1793). He also became a member of the Institute (1795) and was appointed a Chevalier de la Legion dHonneur in 1804. Berthoud not only made numerous complex and quality pieces but also wrote over 4000 pages on the subject. He was a great innovator whose most notable inventions included the bimetallic compensating balance and the detent escapement. His clocks and watches have rightly been described at the cutting edge of horological invention. His work is prized by major private collectors and museum curators including those at the Metropolitan Museum and Frick Collection, New York. In addition to the Wallace Collection, London, the Nationalmuseet Stockholm and the Mathematische Physikalischer Salon, Dresden also represent his oeuvre.

12 1/4in. high, 11 3/4in. wide and 5in. deep.