Magnificent Empire mantel clock “Le Portefaix” after design by Jean-André Reiche


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Empire mantel clock “Le Portefaix” after design by Jean-André Reiche

Remarkable museum quality Empire mantel clock “Le Portefaix” in patinated and gilded bronze with a superb case designed by the bronzier Jean-André Reiche. He registered the design in January 1808 and the watercolour drawing with the design is in the collection of the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris (see photo). The novelty of the composition is the free standing figure, where the clockwork is part of the figure, allowing one to view the clock from every side. The figure carries a large bundle of cotton on his back. Further, in his right hand he holds a letter and with his left hand he leans on a cane. Finally, the oval base features an applied decoration of a monkey, swinging between two palm leaves.

In the period several models of clocks with the theme of the “Bon Sauvage” were designed, all of them inspired by the novel Paul et Virginie by Bernardin de Saint-Pierre.

The movement with anchor escapement and thread suspension strikes the hour and half hours on a bell.  It has a white enamel dial and gilt bronze openwork fleur-de-lys hands for the hours and minutes.

This Empire mantel clock Le Portefaix is in an excellent state of preservation with original mercury gilding and mat and glossy details. Also it is in perfectly working condition and it has been cleaned and serviced by a professional clock maker. The clock comes complete with its pendulum, key and bell.

Details of the Empire mantel clock “Le Portefaix” designed by Jean-André Reiche

Paris, circa 1810.
Dimensions: height 37 cm, width 28 cm, depth 10 cm.

Jean-André Reiche (1752-1817)

The case is one of a number created by Jean-André Reiche (1752-1817) who was one of the leading Parisian bronziers during the Empire period. Like Jean-Simon Deverberie, he gained particular renown for his Pendules Au Nègre. The son of a shop owner from Leipzig, Reiche was baptised in Leipzig’s Sainte-Nicole Church on 13th August 1752, where his surname was recorded as Reich. Jean-André probably changed his name to accord with French conventions when, like a number of German ébénistes, he moved to Paris where he was received as master founder in June 1785.

From his workshop in rue Notre-Dame-de-Nazareth he began specialising in the production of clock cases which especially thrived after the abolition of the guilds during the French Revolution. This meant that Reiche could now create every aspect of a clock case, employing a team of workmen from modelers, casters and chasers to marble workers. His renown immediately grew as a marchand-fabricant de bronzes and especially as a supplier to the Emperor. When he died on 18th March 1817, Jean-André Reiche left his business to his son Jean Reiche.


  • Collection of the Musée des Arts Decoratifs, Paris, showing a version of this clock deriving from the collection of famous collector Raymond Jeanvrot (Bordeaux, 1884-1966).
  • Pierre Kjellberg, “Encyclopédie de la Pendule Française du Moyen Age au XXe Siècle”, 1997, p. 343.
  • Elke Niehüser, “French Bronze Clocks”, 1997, p. 149.240.
  • Spanish Royal collection, “Catálogo de Relojes del Patrimonio Nacional”, 1987, p. 118.
  • Tardy II, p. 358.1.

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