The Louis XV Clock
and the Rococo style
by MAY RUIZ TRONCOSO. Information Resources Management Technician.
Librarian at the University of Cádiz. Author of the Catalogue of the Museum of Clocks of Jerez.
Wall clock (Cartel) by Charles Cressent. 1740-1745. Clockmaker: Jean Godde l’aîné. Dimensions: 52 1/2 × 24 1/2 × 15 1/2 in. (133.4 × 62.2 × 39.4 cm.) Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Charles Wrightsman, 1971.
THE ROCOCO STYLE
The Rococo style is a purely French style, it takes nothing from ancient art.
It is light, lively, seductive, messy, but always graceful.
From the majestic and imposing Baroque, typical of the reign of Louis XIV (1643-1715), created in the service of the absolutist monarchy, one passes abruptly to the delicate and easy rococo of the Louis XV style, a style that is at the service of the aristocracy and the bourgeoisie, where the artist can carry out his works with more freedom. The eight years of the Regency of the Duke of Orleans (1715-1723) meant the transition from angular decoration and rigid lines to wavy lines that progressively became more complicated, with the disappearance of straight lines and symmetry.
Portrait of the Duke of Orléans. Replica of the official portrait of Jean Baptiste Santerre,1715-1716. Oil on canvas, 51,18 x 40,94 in. Museo del Prado (Prado Museum, Madrid)
Cartel Boulle Regency. Circa 1715. Signed W. Blakey á Paris. 39,37 x 16,93 in. (100 x 43 cm. ) El Palacio del Tiempo. Museo de Relojes de Jerez. (The Palace of Time. Museum of Clocks of Jerez) Photo: Luz de Abril
From about 1730 to about 1750, it became a more original, decorative and exuberant art, in what is known as the Rocalla style, under the influence of the mistress of the king, Madame de Pompadour. Rococo art, precisely, reflects the role of the woman in the change of taste as she becomes the main organizer of meetings to talk about literature, politics or to dance. Darkness and religious representations were abandoned to accommodate the artistic representation of the social life of the time.
L’Enseigne de Gersaint (“The Shop Sign of Gersaint”)
by Antoine Watteau
L’Enseigne de Gersaint (“The Shop Sign of Gersaint”) by Antoine Watteau, 1720. Oil on canvas, 65,35 × 120,47 in. (166 cm × 306 cm.) Charlottenburg Palace, Berlin.
The Rococo style stands out for its complicated ornamental forms
Shapes inspired by the luxuriance of nature and the curvilinear and sinuous movements of vegetation, as well as the use of light, light colour and the delicacy of ornamentation.
It is called the Rocalla style, since it seems to represent the rocks that adorn the entrance of a cave, but in reality, it takes its main elements in the decoration of shells, perforated, with concentric circles and squared backgrounds.
These elements tend to exaggerate and are found in torn forms, with contoured lines, abundant curves and foliage, garlands or rods of taped reeds.
Detail of wall clock (poster)
design by Henri-Charles Balthazar.
Passemant’s astronomical clock
The Passemant astronomical clock is a unique instrument in the world, the result of almost 20 years of work by its authors. It has a complex mechanism that results in a great precision in the indication of the hour and minutes, unusual for the time. It also shows the year, the phases of the moon and the movement of the planets around the sun and is programmed to run until the year 9,999.
If we add to these mechanical characteristics the elegance and refinement of the bronze case made by the Caffieri brothers, we can speak of a work of art from the Golden Age of Watchmaking.
Louis XV very interested in mechanical gadgets and the arts, immediately fell in love with this watch and set aside a specific room in his private apartment, calling it “Cabinet de la Pendule”.
Astronomical clock designed by engineer Claude-Siméon Passemant, and made by the watchmaker Louis Dauthiau and the broncists Jacques and Philippe Caffieri. 1749-1753. Chateau de Versailles. 215 x 83 x 52 cm. Photo: Trizec
Detail of the astronomical clock dial
Design of Shell Cartridges and Acanthus Sheets by Alexis Peyrotte
Shell cartridges and acanthus leaves designed by Alexis Peyrotte, 1740. Engraved on white paper mounted on cream paper, 18,82 x 12,87 in. (47.8 x 32.7 cm.) Cooper-Hewitt Design Museum of New York
The Rococo in Architecture
In architecture, simple lines are sought, with smooth facades and circular floors. It is common to create a central pavilion surrounded by gardens.
Plan of Chateau de Fontainebleau by D’Ange-Jacques Gabriel. 1714-1725. Excerpted from “Yves Bottineau, L’art d’Ange-Jacques Gabriel à Fontainebleau (1735-1774), Paris, E. de Boccard, 1962, plate 7”.
However, in the interior the decoration is overflowing, full of fantasy and colorful, choosing above all asymmetrical objects and wavy lines. It is characterised by a search for intimacy and comfort: the rooms are smaller and warmer, the ceilings are lower and the carpentry is painted in soft tones (pastel, pink, cream).
Oval Room of the Hotel de Soubise, Paris. Architect, Germain Boffrand, Paintings by Charles-Joseph Natoire. 1735-1740. Photo: Parigramme/Malika.
The reign of the Ornemanistes
The demand for new interior concepts creates a new predecessor profession for decorators: they are commissioned with an entire interior decoration project, from coatings, stuccoes and paints to furniture and chandeliers. It can be seen that they are often inspired by French versions of Chinese art: animals (especially monkeys) and arabesques, or use themes inspired by the works of artists of the time, such as Jean Bérain the young, Watteau and Jean Audran.
Designs for Rococo Ornaments
Artist: Georg Michael Rosscher
Publisher: Johann Georg Hertel I
Engraving, printed on paper
High: 8 in. (20,32 cm.)
Width: 12 in. (30,48 cm.)
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London
The Rococo in Furniture
In response to the Louis XIV style, where furniture tended to be cold sumptuous as a means of emanating power and imposing respect on the point of becoming overwhelming, it is characterized by its lightness: Louis XV furniture is charming, elegant, light and invites greater relaxation to enjoy the distractions of a playful society.
It is precisely under Louis XV when we see the Comtoise or console appearing, with the table-top pendulums above it. The console table is a table designed to be placed against a wall, generally used to show art objects, almost always decorated with rock style, with undulating curves, modeled with seashells and foliage.
Chest of drawers designed by Charles Cressent. Circa 1745-49. Dimensions: 34,48 x 55 x 22,75 in. (87,6 x 139,7 x 57,8 cm.) Woods and golden bronzes. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.
The Orientalizing Taste
The halls are often decorated with pieces from China: porcelains, fabrics, lacquers … The Chinese civilization was for centuries a great unknown in the West. It was following the reception of Louis XIV on the occasion of the arrival of the Siamese ambassadors in 1686 that the Court’s interest in the Far East was awakened. Diplomatic gifts, which included Chinese objects, aroused great interest and became fashionable among royalty and nobility. Shortly thereafter, in 1688, the Sun King also initiated a series of cultural and diplomatic exchanges with Emperor Kangxi, to whom he sent a delegation of Jesuits on his behalf.
Tapestry: Les Astronomes, from L’Histoire de l’empereur de la Chine Series. (The Astronomers, from The History of the Emperor of China Series) Manufacture of Beauvais . Fabric under the direction of Philippe Béhagle (french, 1641 – 1705) From design of Guy-Louis Vernansal (french, 1648 – 1729), Jean-Baptiste Monnoyer (french, 1636 – 1699) and Jean-Baptiste Belin de Fontenay (french, 1653 – 1715) Wool and silk, 167 x 74 in ( 424,2 x 188 cm.) The Jean-Paul Getty Museum.
The intense relationship with the countries of the East was intensified during the reign of Louis XV, thanks in particular to the work of Minister Henri-Léonard Bertin.
These cultural exchanges took place largely thanks to the French Company of the Indies, the main importer of furniture, porcelain, silk and other products coveted by the nobility of the 18th century. The royalty also wanted to adapt those pieces to the French taste and began commissioning oriental-style pieces from the Manufacture Royale de Sèvres, in which the characteristic French refinement of the time was added, thus impregnating itself with an exotic touch influenced by Chinese art. IMAGE:Seal of the Royal Manufacture of Sèvres at the base of a cup.
Sculpted woods and Chinese lacquers are in fashion
The Martins, the king’s varnishers, stand out in the elaboration of the famous varnishes, providing pictorial themes with which to brighten up the dark lacquers.
The Dolphin’s Chest of drawers María Teresa
Lacquered chest of drawers with chinesque motifs designed by Bernard II van Risenburgh, 1744. Dimensions: 32 high x 60 long x 59,84 x 25 deep in. (81,28 high x 152,4 long x 63,5 deep cm.) Château de Versailles.
A chest of drawers lacquered in black and adorned with magnificent pieces of gilded bronze to the ormolu made in 1744 by the most famous cabinetmaker of his time, Bernard II van Risamburgh, has recently been recovered for its place of origin, the Château de Versailles.
It was a commission from Louis XV for the bedroom of the Dolphin Mª Teresa Rafaella de Borbón, as an expert from the Christie’s house has been able to verify, who found number 1343 on the back of the furniture and verified in the Royal Inventory that this number belonged exactly to this chest of drawers destined for the Dolphin’s bedroom.
After the revolution, it was sold several times and the track was lost in the 80s. When the opportunity to recover it arose, Versailles decided to buy it for €4m from a collector in the United States, the current owner of the piece, so that the dresser will return to the bedroom for which it was created.
The Orientalizing Taste in Watches
This can be seen not only in the furniture but also in the watch cases where there are important novelties: ceramics are beginning to be used and porcelain, thanks to its milky transparency and sonority, finds numerous uses in decoration, as well as biscuit. Earthenware took off with the opening of factories in Strasbourg, Marseille, Rouen, etc.
Large clocks still dominate, but smaller ones are also seen, with very careful ornamentation.The arrival of objects from the Far East and the opening of the Turkish embassy in Paris in 1721 also influenced their character.
In the last manifestations the style appears a series of characters inspired by the East: rhinoceroses, elephants, bulls and lions carrying on their back Chinese or mythological characters. The animal is often made of Florentine bronze or porcelain and the rest is usually gilded bronze.
Some spheres are still made with twenty-four enamelled cartridges and the centre is made of bronze or enamel; on other occasions it is made up of thirteen enamelled pieces. Until 1750, the enamellers did not manage to achieve the sphere of a single piece, of a very soft white, curved and with the hours painted in fine lines. The crystal placed in front of the dial has a harmonious curve and its lunette is pearly or scratched, with a beautiful hinge that fits perfectly.
The needles are real lace, perforated and modelled. Later they will be made of engraved copper and openwork. And at the end of the Louis XV style, the Fleur-de-Lys appears.
Clock hands. Clock dial exhibited in El Palacio del Tiempo, Museo de Relojes de Jerez (The Palace of Time, Museum of Clocks of Jerez)
It’s a beautiful period for bronzes. Robust curves at the base refine as they rise to become more delicate motifs around the sphere.
They evoke a very rich nature: foliage, branches of flowers graciously curled and beautiful scrolls.
The upper part is crowned by a mythological character or by elegant vases, lengthening the silhouette of the clock.
Wall clock (Poster)
by Charles Cressent. 1740-1745
Clockmaker: Jean Godde l’aîné
52 1/2 × 24 1/2 × 15 1/2 in.
133.4 × 62.2 × 39.4 cm.
Metropolitan Museum of Art
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Charles Wrightsman, 1971
Clock nº 26 of the Palacio del Tiempo,
Jerez de la Frontera Clock Museum
The Chinese is a watch in gilded bronze and porcelain. It is executed around 1865, reproducing the characteristics of the Louis XV period, where oriental influences, as we have commented, are very strong.
This is a Chinese character, in gilded bronze, covering himself with a parasol and sitting on an Asian rhinoceros made of porcelain, representing Clara, a very popular rhinoceros calf in the eighteenth century. The pedestal is a beautiful composition of rock with sinuous curves sculpted and against curves. The design of this watch is attributed to the famous Jacques Caffieri.
The Machinery of The CHINESE
The machinery is a steering wheel. It is the ring of a balanced flywheel to which a fine spiral spring is attached which replaces the force of gravity and causes the flywheel to reverse its direction of rotation at regular intervals. The flywheel, with respect to the pendulum has the ability to be portable and offer almost the same precision as the pendulum.
Rope of 8 hours and sonería of hours and half. Its measures are 18,89 high x 12,20 in wide in. (48 cm high x 31 cm wide).
The dial is made of white enamel, circular and flat, with Roman numerals for the hours and Arabic numerals for the minutes. The hands are made of gilded bronze with a very decorative design, formed by vegetal scrolls full of movement and finished with arrowheads, typical of this style. On the dial appears the signature Houdebine a Paris.
Henri Houdebine is a famous French broncist who founded his company in 1845. He specialised in high quality watch boxes and decorative pieces, drawing inspiration from models of the great styles: Louis XV and Louis XVI, fundamentally, as well as making watches with the aesthetics of the moment, that is to say, style II Empire.
He worked with the most outstanding watchmakers of the time, such as Japy Freres & Cie., sculptors such as Émile louis Picault, Émile Peynot, Jules Dalou, Antoine Bofill, Marius Mars-Vallet, Louis de Monard and others.
It was so successful that it dedicated a large part of its production to exports and expanded the business. The foundry changed its name and address several times, until the 1850s it was called Henri Houdebine et Cie. and was located at 3 Rue de la Perle; around 1860 it moved to 44 Rue Saint-Louis-au-Marais (later renamed Rue de Turenne) and called itself Henri Houdebine and V.F. Blumberg, and then, from 1865 to 1880, Henri Houdebine; then, Houdebine & Fils Fils; and then, from 1865 to 1880, Henri Houdebine & Fils. The foundry existed until 1910.
He participated in numerous renowned exhibitions: Universal Exhibition of 1878 in Paris, London, Amsterdam, even in the Universal Exhibition of 1893 in Chicago.
CLARA, the most famous rhinoceros in history
This young rhinoceros from India was brought to Europe in 1740 by Dutch captain Douwemout van der Meer. At that time it was a very rare animal on our continent. Its exhibition in Rotterdam was so successful that it was claimed from all corners and began a tour, becoming a fairground attraction until it died at the age of 20.
Engraving of Clara by Douwe Mout. 1745. Biblioteka Jagiellonska, Krakow
She toured the main capitals on board a wooden wagon built especially for her and pulled by 20 horses or 12 oxen. It was received by all European royalty, including Louis XV in Versailles and its owner made it even more famous, selling all kinds of objects with his figure: medals, porcelain, engravings…
Exhibition of a Rhinoceros in Venice, Pietro Longhi, 1751, Oil on canvas, 18,50 x 23,77 in (47 x 60,4 cm.) National Gallery, London.
THE MARQUISE DE POMPADOUR
IN THE COURT OF LUIS XV
Louis XV de France by Maurice Quentin de La Tour, 1748. Grey-blue paper cake glued on canvas, 23,62 x 21,25 in (60 x 54 cm.) Musée du Louvre.
In 1740, the king met the later Marquise de Pompadour: Jeanne-Antoinette Poisson, his official mistress for 24 years.
Thanks not only to her attractiveness, but also to her culture and her gift of people, she participates very actively in the cultural life of the Court, having a lot of influence on art. Passionate about the arts (she knew how to dance and play the lute) and letters, she gave work to numerous craftsmen in the porcelain manufacture of Sèvres founded by her.
Portrait of Madame Pompadour by François Boucher, 1756. Oil on canvas, 79,13 x 61,81 in (201 x 157 cm.) Alte Pinakothek Munich.
The Marquise de Pompadour organized all kinds of shows at court, protected sculptors, painters such as Boucher, the greatest representative of Rococo taste, writers and encyclopaedists.
Thanks to his intervention, the king appoints his brother Abel Poisson, future Marquis of Marigny, Director General of the King’s Buildings. The complicity of these brothers played an important role during the evolution and characteristics of all the arts of the reign of Louis XV. Marigny decided on the gardens, arts, upholstery and royal manufactures; under his command were the craftsmen housed in the Louvre and also directed the Royal Printing House, the Mint and Medals House, the Observatory and all the Academies, except the Academy of Sciences.
Diderot’s reading at home by Jean Louis Ernest Meissonier, 1888. Print, 8,34 x 10,51 in (21,2 x 26,7 cm.)
Bibliothèque nationale de France. Engraved by Louis Monziès.
L’Encyclopédie. Diderot. Gallica. Bibliothèque Nationale de France
JACQUES CAFFIERI (1678-1755)
Caffieri signature on a bronze
Caffieri is the most important bronze smelter in the reign of Louis XV. He mastered as a chiseler in 1715 and later joined the artists who worked for the crown, although he made many applications of gilded bronze for the most important cabinetmakers in France.
His watch designs show the triumph of the rococo in beautiful examples. His works are often unsigned but it is also true that they are so precious that they continue to be reproduced throughout the nineteenth century.
Similar examples can be seen in several collections. For example, in the Victoria and Albert Museum there is a very similar specimen, with an elephant as the protagonist.
May Ruiz Troncoso was born in Jerez de la Frontera (Cádiz, 1957). He took a degree in Art History at the University of Seville and for several years worked for the City Council of Jerez, inventorising the city’s Artistic Heritage. He knows the whole artistic environment in depth, having photographed and studied it.
From that local environment he was asked to explain the monuments to the groups that visited the city. And in one of those shelters, they included the RUMASA Clock Museum. Upon entering, he fell in love with the museum and decided to study it.
May Ruiz Troncoso is a librarian at the University of Cádiz, combining this activity with research.
She has taught courses in librarianship and information search techniques, and organized and coordinated many activities around peace and social responsibility, inside and outside the university, being very committed to social causes. All the benefits of this publication are dedicated to scholarships. This book, based on her undergraduate thesis, is the fruit of years of study.
THE BOOK “THE PALACE OF TIME”
May Ruiz Troncoso is also the author of the book “El Palacio del Tiempo”.
Through 416 pages she obtains an exceptional edition that catalogues with precision the essential technical, historical and artistic details of all the clocks of the museum.
The Museo de Relojes de Jerez, considered the best museum of antique clocks in Spain and one of the most important in Europe, receives with the edition of this book the decisive impulse to promote itself worldwide.
EL PALACIO DEL TIEMPO
MUSEO DE RELOJES DE JEREZ
The Palace of Time is framed in the gardens of the Watchtower, 18,000 square meters of walks and fountains with a design of French landscaping, which coexist centennial trees from different countries. These gardens have been declared an Asset of Cultural Interest and catalogued as Andalusian Historical Heritage.
A mid-19th century palace-house houses the watch collection. It has a sober neoclassical structure to which is added an eclectic decoration typical of Romanticism. It consists of two floors distributed around a central courtyard.
The Museum was founded in 1973 by the businessman José María Ruiz Mateos, with 125 watches, expanding the collection in successive years, reaching 301 copies.
In 1983 the expropriation of goods from RUMASA took place and the Andrés de Ribera Foundation was created, a public entity in which the City Council of Jerez and the Provincial Council of Cádiz have a stake. This Foundation has been directing the destinies of the Museum ever since.
From 1998 to 2001 a complete reform of the palace was carried out and the distribution of clocks in all its rooms was remodelled. It changes the concept of the museum, incorporating new technologies: holograms, baroque music, lights and contrasts,… all this inviting to a trip to the past full of magic.
The layout of the clocks follows a museum criterion, in a journey through the history of French and English watchmaking, fundamentally, and culminating on the top floor with the most notable copies of the collection.