Exceptional Empire clock “Garde à vous” signed Rabiat and Ledure

Empire mantel clock “Garde à vous” signed Rabiat and Ledure

This mercury gilded and patinated bronze Empire mantel clock carries the signatures of both the bronzier Pierre-Victor Ledure and the clock maker Thomas. Further it has the signature of foundry-chaser Claude-François Rabiat on the inside of the case. Versions of the same clock model are kept in the collections of the Mobilier National  and the Château de Compiègne.

Main subject of this clock is an exquisitely sculpted figure of Eros sitting on a stool with a tasseled cushion. He leans against the case which contains the clockwork, looking at us with one finger on his mouth. It is as if he asks us for silence or to keep a secret. His bow is beside him and the quiver lies on top of the clock, partly covered by Eros’ robe. Further, he holds an arrow in his hand. The contrast between the Eros figure with a dark patina and the bright mercury gilded robe is particularly appealing.

The case which contains the clockwork is sumptuously adorned with leaves and palmettes and the whole scene is set on a gilded base with decorations of two griffins on either side of a lyre, palmettes and water leaves. And finally there is a counter-base in sea green marble, standing on winged claw feet.

Three versions of this clock were acquired by the Garde Meuble for the Imperial apartments. One in 1809 for the dining room of the Imperial apartments and one for the Palais de Compiègne in 1810. Finally the Garde Meuble purchased another one in 1810 for the main Salon of the Empress at the Petit Trianon in Versailles.

Details of this Empire clock “Garde à vous” signed Rabiat and Ledure

This ormolu Empire mantel clock has been professionally cleaned and is in a very good condition. The white enameled dial, signed “Ledure Bronzier / Thomas Hr.” shows Roman numerals for the hours and stripes for the minutes. The clockwork has a silk suspended pendulum and anchor escapement. It strikes the hours and half hours on a bell, regulated by a count wheel. The clockwork is in perfect working condition and has been checked by a professional clock maker. It comes complete with pendulum, bell and key.

Paris circa 1809.
Dimensions: 48 cm high, 37.5 cm wide and 19 cm deep.
Weight: 19.9 kg.

Art historical references

The subject is probably inspired by the then popular etchings after a work by the Swiss painter Maria Anna Angelika Kauffmann (30 October 1741 – 5 November 1807) titled “Garde à vous”. These etchings depict a similar scene of a  Eros figure with his fingers to his lips (see photos). There are also similarities with a marble sculpture by the French sculptor Étienne-Maurice Falconet. He showed a plaster design of a seated Amor, titled  “l’Amour menaçant” at the Paris salon in 1755. Later he worked it out in marble on behalf of Madame de Pompadour, mistress of King Louis XV. Subsequently he showed the result at the salon in 1757 and that version is now in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.

The makers of this Empire mantel clock

Pierre-Victor Ledure (1783-1870) was the son of Laurent Ledure and Marie-Marguérite née Lainé who died when he was only five in 1788, shortly before the French Revolution. Ledure was apprentice under the renowned bronzier, André-Antoine Ravrio (1759-1814). He received many important commissions during the Empire period, enjoying the patronage from a wealthy international clientele. Today one can find examples of his work in many important private and public collections including the Museo de Reloges at Jerez de la Frontera, the Royal Palace in Madrid, the Royal Pavilion at Brighton and also the British Embassy in Paris.

Claude François Rabiat (1756-1815) was a foundry-chaser, know for his sculpting, who received master in 1778. He was very famous and worked mostly with top bronziers like Thomire, Feuchère, Ledure and Galle.

Thomas was active as a clock maker in Paris in the rue de Bucy from 1806. He worked with famous bronziers like Galle, Thomire, Ledure.


  • Elke Niehüser, “French Bronze Clocks”, 1997, p.220 #504.
  • Collection of the Mobilier National, inv. numbers GML-7449-000 and GML-7504-000.
  • Marie-France Dupuy-Baylet, Pendules du Mobilier national 1800-1870, Dijon, 2006, pp.152-153, notice 74.
  • Marie-France Dupuy-Baylet, Les pendules des premières années du XIXème siècle et leur cortège d’objets mobiliers, L’Estampille l’Objet d’art, n° 375, juin 1997, pp.76-82.
  • Tardy, Dictionnaire des horlogers français, p. 612.

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