From the late eighteenth century, artists protested against the classic rigidity and the cult of ideal beauty and expressed their preference for more realistic subjects, closer to their time. This new style which exalting emotion, sensitivity, imagination and fantasy could also be seen on Romantic French clocks.
Under the Restoration, bronze workers had a prominent place in the art of horlogy. They depicted with great skill anecdotal scenes, episodes of everyday life, gothic architectures and exotic scenes.
The 1830s knew an important change in ornamental grammar clocks decorated with cornucopia, friezes of palmettes, finely chiseled garlands framing the gilt bronze dial or flower baskets, a highly caracteristic pattern of the Restoration.
The original Charles X clock with a swan and dolphin that our gallery presents is a fine example.
The clocks with characters became very popular amongst a public essentially bourgeois. The Neoclassicism, which was perpetuated under the Empire and Restoration, provided scenes and characters inspired from mythology and ancient history.
First, these patterns decorated the French Louis XVI clocks, then those created in the first thirty years of the nineteenth century. Among the most common, we found Apollo and Diana the Huntress most often copied from Greco-Roman antiquities, Orpheus, Mercury, Adonis, Chronos along with reliefs copied from Greek vases, but especially Venus and Eros, god of love, crowning Psyche or just playing the harp or drumming.
However, the scenes of domestic life were the sources where one draws the most common. The clocks that inventories called "model library" showed, through the selection of furniture, the intimate atmosphere for study. The theme of reading, often represented on the early nineteenth century clocks, was often associated with history, Arts and Sciences.
Around 1830, the enamel clocks knew a great success. This was the period when the scenes in the Neoclassical style gave way to romantic floral decoration. The champleve enameled and multicolored flowers were disposed in various and sometimes very elaborated compositions and our mantel clock signed Jacob Petit offers a wonderful example.
If the Middle Ages, Henry IV and Marie Stuart fascinated, about 1820, adherents of historicism, the Far East seduced the Western world since the eighteenth century. The movement grew during the reign of Louis XV, giving birth to many pieces of furniture and objects "in the style of China". The exoticism fashion continued in the first decades of the nineteenth century, with subjects inspired by Africa and America.
French Romantic clocks preserve a whole vocabulary inspired by exotic sources, such as the black Africans, Turks and Chinese, highly appreciated by the public of the time. The so called "Chinese with birds" clock reflects the deeply passion of the romantics for faraway territories which do not cease to excite the imagination of a generation in search of mystery and exoticism.