...the timepiece, with its exuberant crown of sparkling gilt bronze, catches the eye from afar..."
Standing more than seven feet tall, this impressive longcase clock is a spectacular addition to the Wrightsman Galleries. On display in Gallery 526, the timepiece, with its exuberant crown of sparkling gilt bronze, catches the eye from afar. The acquisition of this mid-eighteenth-century regulator, or clock with long pendulum and weights, fills a significant void in the Museum's collection, which, although strong in French decorative arts, did not include a longcase clock in the Rococo style.
Truly a monument to time, the case was executed by the leading cabinetmaker Balthazar Lieutaud, who specialized in clock cases. The lower section of the tapering trunk gracefully swells just above the base enclosing a glazed opening, which allows the swinging motion of the pendulum to be seen. Although the overall shape and marquetry are restrained, the gilt-bronze scrolls, floral garlands, and acanthus leaves cascading down the top and sides of the hood are unapologetically Rococo in nature.
The movement, by the Swiss-born Ferdinand Berthoud, one of the most talented clockmakers in eighteenth-century France, is very sophisticated and appears to be his first equation timepiece. Displaying both solar time (time normally measured by a sun dial) and the twenty-four hours of a day, this movement was formally presented at the Royal Academy of Sciences in Paris in 1752, to which an engraved steel plaque inside the case attests. Lieutaud and Berthoud worked successfully together on a distinguished group of clocks, most of them later than this particular one.
We are delighted with the acquisition of this splendid object, not only because its bell enlivens our galleries and reminds us of the passage of time, but especially because it shows eighteenth-century clock making at its very best.
Henry R. Kravis Curator
Department of European Sculpture and Decorative Arts