Important Empire mantel clock “Lettre d’Amour” by François-Louis Savart


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Empire mantel clock “Lettre d’Amour” attributed to François-Louis Savart

A very fine and sumptuously decorated Empire mantel clock in gilt and patinated bronze attributed to François-Louis Savart (1780-1828), after a model by the same bronzier. The design of this clock is signed “Mr. Savart fabrique de bronze rue Phelipaux no. 11” and is kept at the Bibliothèque Nationale, Cabinet d’Estampes (see the last photo). That design is often referred to as “Lettre d’Amour” (the love letter).

This sumptuous Empire clock has truly finely worked details, making it a precious collector’s piece. It shows a young woman in classical dress sitting while looking down toward a carrier pigeon. The pigeon sits upon her knee and holds a note, probably a love letter, that she has just written to her love. Further, the chair she sits on is a very luxurious model, typical for the Empire period, with griffins as armrests and more elaborately chiseled decorations elsewhere. This chair is comfortably padded with luxury cushions with tassels. Behind her stands a tripod table with writing necessaries supported by three winged figures. Each of these winged figures has a female bust and the head and feet of a lion. The tripod table was inspired by designs of Napoleon’s chief architects Charles Percier (1764-1838) and Pierre François Léonard Fontaine (1762-1853).

The three-layer stepped oval base with engraved toupee feet has applied mounts of putti, torches and arrows which all symbolize love. Further, the bas-relief frieze below the dial shows the receiver to be a young shepherd. He receives the letter, held in the beak of the same carrier pigeon, while resting in an Arcadian landscape.

Finally, the clockwork has an enamel dial signed “Flocard à Paris”, with gilt bronze hands indicating the hours in Roman numerals and every 15 minutes in Arabic numerals. The eight-days going movement has a wire suspension pendulum. Further, it has a twin-barrel movement with count wheel strike of the hours and half hours on a bell.

Details of this Empire mantel clock attributed to François-Louis Savart

This Empire clock in gilt and green patinated bronze has been professionally cleaned and is in an excellent state of preservation with magnificent mercury gilding. The movement with anchor escapement, wire suspension and outside count wheel strikes the hour and half hours on a bell. It has been serviced by a professional clock maker and is in perfect working condition and comes complete with pendulum, bell and key.

Paris, circa 1805-1810.
Dimensions: height 49,5 cm, width 47,5 cm, depth 19 cm.
Weight: 15,9 kg.

François-Louis Savart (1780-1828)

The bronzier François-Louis Savart was born on 6 June 1780 and he worked for most of his career in Paris. Savart produced a variety of luxury bronzes from candelabra to clocks. When he designed the original model for this clock, he was established at 11 rue Philippaux. After he died he was buried in the cemetery of Père Lachaise, where upon his grave is a portrait bust of him modeled by the sculptor Sylvestre-Joseph Brun.


  • H. Ottomeyer, P. Proschel et al., ” Vergoldete Bronzen – Die Bronzearbeiten des Spätbarock und Klassizismus“, Munich, 1986, Vol. I, p.376-377 fig 5.15.12.
  • Collection of Museo de Relojes in Jerez de la Frontera.
  • Elke Niehüser, “French Bronze Clocks”, p.219 #490.
  • Koller Auktionen, Zürich, 22 June 2006, where a version with a partly patinated case appeared in auction.

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