Rare early Empire clock “The Magic Lantern” attributed to Deverberie

Empire mantel clock “The Magic Lantern” attributed to Deverberie

An extremely fine gilt bronze Consulate / Empire period mantle clock representing Eros and his magic lantern, it’s design attributed to Jean-Simon Deverberie . Eros with bow and quiver carries on his wings a fire-gilt lantern with a flaming torch. Further, he stands on a gilded oval base with two putti in the frieze playing around a vase, and raised on eagle’s feet. The sculpture as a whole symbolizes love and impermanence through time and the overall design is of high sculptural quality.

The dial bears the signature “Baudoin á Paris”. Pierre Baudoin is mentioned in Tardy as being active as clock maker in Paris during the second half of the 18th century. First mentioned in 1759 in the Quai de l’Horloge he subsequently moved his workshop to different address in Paris. Furthermore, the design of the case is attributed to Jean-Simon Deverberie (1764-1824).

Eros is forcefully hiking along and on his wings he is carrying a magic lantern, also known as laterna magica. This is an optical instrument developed in the middle of the 17th century, which can create picture illusions. The projection window is replaced by the clock’s dial, which shows us the fleeting time. Eros challenges the viewer with his provocative looks and points at the clock, implying that time is an illusion. Just like the illusions created by the magic lantern. The bronze perfectly integrates the clock with the bronze figure thus enhancing the realistic appearance.

The magic lantern is surmounted by a flaming torch pierced with stars and hearts. Further references to love are provided by the pierced hearts around the lantern top and surmounting flaming torch. Finally, the white enamel dial has Roman and Arabic numerals for the hours and minutes and finely worked gilt bronze hands with lily tips. It is surrounded by a decorative lunette with blue enameled rosettes. These blue rosettes with stars are a reference to Eros’ nocturnal activity.

The magic lantern

The magic lantern was invented around the middle of the 17th century, probably by Christiaan Huygens (1629-95). It was an early form of slide projector, consisting of a domed top and rectangular box in which a candle or oil lamp was placed. The slides were placed before a lens and lit by a light source, so that they were projected onto a wall or a sheet. Magic lantern shows became very successful in the late 18th century.

The design of this clock in which Eros points to the dial, suggests an interesting interpretation. Here we see Eros who avoids looking at the viewer but instead points his finger toward the clock dial. In this way we might interpret the message of this clock in the same way as the images that were projected by the magic lantern, i.e. that time is merely an illusion.

Details of this ormolu mantel clock “The Magic Lantern”

This ormolu mantel clock 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.

Height: 46 cm, width: 25 cm, depth: 15 cm.
Weight: 4.8 kg.
Paris circa 1800.

Jean-Simon Deverberie (1764-1824)

Jean-Simon Deverberie was among the most important Parisian bronziers of the late 18th century and the early decades of the following century. He was an extremely successful designer, bronze manufacturer and marchand-mercier. Well known through the series ‘Pendules au Negre’ and ‘Pendule l’Afrique’. Around 1800 he registered several designs for this type of clocks. The drawings of these designs are preserved in the Cabinet des Estampes in the bibliothèque nationale in Paris). He opened a workshop in the rue Barbette around 1800, subsequently in the rue du Temple around 1804, and finally in the rue des Fossés du Temple between 1812 and 1820.


  • Elke Niehüser, “French Bronze Clocks”, p.129 #210 and p.228 #658.
  • Tardy, Dictionnaire des horlogers français, p.35.

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