An exceptional and historically important early 19th century French ormolu automata clock with eight enamel dials by Joseph Coteau including full Republican and Gregorian calendars, age- and phase- of the moon, time of sunrise and sunset, equation of time, world time and signs of the Zodiac. Almost certainly made for the 'Seconde exposition publique des produits de l'industrie francaise' held in the courtyard of the Louvre from the 19th to the 25th September 1801.
Conceived and made by Francois-Joseph Hartmann, Paris. The dials decorated by Joseph Coteau
Surmounted by the ormolu figure of Victory blowing a trumpet over a series of eight dials interspersed by draped fruit and foliage, on a pair of pedestals, flanked by a pair of columns 44cms (17.25 inches) in height and constructed of two pierced spirally twisted columns set around a giltwood core and terminating in a pair of matching spheres with bud finials. The columns driven by a movement set in the base of the clock and each column contra-rotating on depression of a vertical lever mounted in the ormolu base of the clock; simultaneously, the pushing of the lever brings into play a central highly polished steel 'whirlygig' with circular mirrored glass background and, just below this, a twin-headed fountain with winged leopards heads mounted with spirally twisted steel rods to mimic the effect of water running into an ormolu trough below. All mounted on a bow-ended base with beaded decoration over a pair of reeded ends, martial trophy panels and a central panel of a repeating cast foliate pattern, on six shaped feet. The central panel is sprung, and on pulling a lever in the base, this panel hinges forward to reveal the spring-barrel movement for the automata work.
The main dial measuring 13.5cms (5 3/8ths of an inch) in diameter and decorated with twelve polychrome reserves depicting signs of the Zodiac in gilt and jewelled borders. The Zodiac ring encompassing an annual Gregorian date ring, the minute ring comprising of gilt dots and Arabic five minute numerals, the Roman hours and an inner quarter hour track. Set with five hands; a blued steel calendar hand with an eccentric moon tip denoting the date, a blued steel centre seconds hand, a gilt and engraved brass hour hand, a gilt and engraved brass minute hand for solar time and a pierced blued steel hand for mean time. The open centre showing the wheels of five-star crossings.
The three uppermost dials give the Republican calendar including season (Printems, Ete, Automne and Hiver) and month (Germinal, Floreal, Prairal, Messidor, Thermidor, Fructidor, Vendemiaire, Brumaire, Frimaire, Nivose, Pluviose, Ventose), over day of the week (Primidi, Duodi, Tridi, Quartidi, Quintidi, Sextidi, Septidi, Octidi, Nonidi and Decadi) and date of the month (1-30). Just below the main dial is the signature plaque, signed in a flowing gilt copperplate script and decorated to each corner with a silvered boss; flanked to the left by the moon dial. The moon dial is entitled 'Croissan Decroissant de la Lune' and is decorated with gilt scrolls, the moon's surface depicted with it's peaks and troughs and traversing a deep blue night-sky set with 103 gilt stars. Opposite the moon dial sits the dial for time of sunrise and sunset, entitled 'Lever et Coucher du Soleil'. The gilt sun set against a sky blue dial and an outer Roman hour scale from IIII to XII and back to VIII, centred by a globe depicting the North and South Poles, Europe, Africa and Australia (known as New Holland until 1824), with lines of latitude and longitude clearly marked, the enamelled shutters coloured from yellow to pink at their tips to indicate the time of the sunrise and sunset.
The lower left hand dial shows an outer scale of 1-30 enclosing the days and signs of the planet of the day.
The lower right hand dial is encompassed by a twice I-XII scale and is marked with 53 places around the world including San Salvador, Quebec, Mexico, Pekin, Siam, Goa, Bagdad, Moskou, Constantinople and Rome (sic). The main time dial is signed 'Coteau' below the VI o'clock position; most of the others are signed on the rear and several are also dated 'an 8'. Given that the Republican calendar was established in 1793, the eigth year was 1801 - the year of the second exposition.
The movement consists of a near-circular backplate six inches in diameter carrying the two main spring barrels with off-set winding, the countwheel and escapement are also both set to the backplate. The outside countwheel with elaborate star wheel crossings. The escapement is a unique variant of a pin-wheel type; its action is such that the pendulum remains free from the escape wheel for most of its travel, receiving impulse on only one side. Both impulse pallet and locking detent are constructed of highly polished facetted steel, for exhibition purposes. This ingenious escapement beats dead centre seconds on the dial with the half second bimetallic pendulum mounted on a knife edge suspension and set with micrometer regulation to the crutch, terminating in a heavy brass bob.
The frontplate of the movement is of substantial brass casting and stamped twice with an HM monogram (presumably for Hartmann?). Following the outline of the dials, the frontplate carries the intricate motionwork necessary to drive each of the dials, it also supports the vertical arbor with universal joints to the polished steel whirlygig and the twin fountains.
The automata columns are powered by a separate movement mounted in the base of the clock; the heavy brass plates carry a spring driven movement wound from the right hand side via a bevelled gear - a hole in the glazed cover allows for this when the cover is in situ. The automata movement is activated once an hour, or at will.
This is veneered with mahogany on a substantial oak carcass, it is flat fronted and bow-ended and sits on squat ball feet. It is set to the underside with well-made facetted steel shaft that would originally have set the automata work to play by pulling it outward - the handle end is now missing but the working end retains its facetted, sprung shaft and cone terminal that would have pushed the lever up into the base to actuate the columns, whirlygig and fountain.
The glass dome
This is constructed of thirteen glazed sections set together in a panelled construction. An elaborate gilt brass urn finial sits on a brass plate at the apex. Two holes cut into the front and one to the right hand side allow for winding of the going train, the striking train and the automata train. A cut recess on the baseboard has been widened to accept the unusual shape of the glass cover and it is most likely that this is not the original dome for the clock. That said, its method of construction and the attributes of the glass panels indicate that it was made in the first half of the 19th century. The clock 75cms (29.5ins) to Victory's trumpet. To the top of the glazed case finial, including the mahogany baseboard, 99cms (39ins) high.
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