Stunning Directory period mantel clock “Allegory of Fidelity”

Directory period French mantel clock “Allegory of Fidelity”

This sumptuously decorated gilt bronze French Directory mantel clock portrays a spinner and her dog in an allegory of fidelity. This very decorative mantel clock in mercury gilded bronze, whose design dates from the Directory period (1795-1799), has a white enamel dial signed “Chopin à Paris”. The clockwork is set in an octagonal case and around the clockwork bezel we find a second knurled bezel in an octagonal shape decorated with shell motives. Further, this case is flanked by two circular half-columns with vine garlands and topped with a vase. On the top we see the spinner sitting on a fountain while a dog sits beside her and the fountain spouts water in a basin. The whole scene is set upon a base mounted on four feet, with a front bas-relief representing basket of flowers, fruits and pastoral attributes.

The representation of the spinner and her dog, the faithful animal who watches over the flocks alongside the shepherdess, testifies to the taste of the end of the 18th century, which was very inclined to offer scenes of daily life. The spinner is perhaps also there to refer to Ariadne’s thread which made it possible to find the light. Water, suggested by the fountain and the numerous shells, is an essential element for life, and its presence is generally interpreted as a regenerative element. A well known example of this interpretation is the “Regeneration Fountain” which was a monument erected in Paris in 1793 on the site of the destroyed Bastille.

A version of this clock is in the collection of the Mobilier National in Paris. That clock was acquired by the Garde-Meuble as a deposit for a government loan granted to the widow of merchant Louis Duguers de Montrosier when she could no longer meet the commitments of the company that she inherited. From the Garde-Meuble the clock was sent to the Élysée Palace. Later, under the Empire, it took place in the bedroom of the King of Rome for whom an apartment had been set up on the second floor. In 1947, the clock returned from the Élysée Palace to be used for around twenty years at the Hôtel Matignon, where it adorned the dining room of the music pavilion. Also a late 18th century version of this clock is known which is executed in biscuit porcelain.

Details of this Directory mantel clock “Allegory of Fidelity”

This clock is in an excellent state of conservation with its original mercury gilding. It has been professionally cleaned and the clockwork has been revised by a professional clock maker. The eight-days going movement has a wire suspension pendulum and it strikes the hour and half hour on a bell. The clock comes complete with its pendulum, key and bell.

Paris, circa 1799.
Dimensions: 43 cm high, 30 cm wide, 12,5 cm deep.
Weight: 7,7 kg.


  • Collection of the Mobilier National, Paris, GML 6307.
  • Marie-France Dupuy-Baylet, “Pendules du Mobilier National 1800-1870”, p.40-41.
  • Pierre Kjellberg, “Encyclopédie de la Pendule Française du Moyen Age au XXe Siècle”, 1997, p. 336 #A, p.341 #C.
  • Elke Niehüser, “French Bronze Clocks”, 1997, p. 221 #530.
  • Spanish Royal collection, “Catálogo de Relojes del Patrimonio Nacional”, 1987, p. 83.
  • Tardy, “Dictionnaire des horlogers français”, p.130.
  • Marie-France Dupuy-Baylet, “Les pendules des lendemains de la Révolution”, L’Estampille l’Objet d’art, n° 324, May 1998, p.54-65.
  • Christie’s, New York, 8 February 2017 where a version of this clock appeared in auction.

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