Extraordinary Empire Clock by Claude Galle “Erato and Eros”

Empire clock by Claude Galle

This extremely rare Empire clock by Claude Galle depicts Erato playing Apollo’s lyre accompanied by Eros. Erato sits on a plinth with cushion enclosing a white enamel dial with roman chapters and Breguet hands. The dial of this Empire clock is surrounded by intricately detailed decorations. We rarely see this high level of artistic craftsmanship. The clockwork carries the signature “Galle, Rue Vivienne No 9”. Due to the elegant composition and the many refined and realistic details, we can see that this clock was made by a master. For instance the compellingly realistic curves and pleats in the cushion and the clothes show amazing artistic craftsmanship. This Empire clock by Claude Galle has a wire suspension pendulum, striking the hour and half hour on bell by means of a count wheel. The clock and it’s gilding have been preserved in very good condition.

This clock is mentioned in the book “French Bronze Clocks” by Elke Niehüser, p.220 item 501.

The clockwork has been professionally cleaned and serviced by our clock maker and is in a perfect working condition. It comes complete with the bell, pendulum and key


Erato is the Muse of love poetry. In the Orphic hymn to the Muses, it is Erato who charms the sight. Since the Renaissance she has mostly been shown with a wreath of myrtle and roses, holding a lyre. The ancient Greeks believed that the Muses of the art inspired their work. From the relationship of Mnemósine with Zeus the Muses were born. They are:  Calliope, Clio, Erato, Euterpe, Melpomene, Polymnia, Terpsichore, Talia and Urania.

Claude Galle

Claude Galle (1759 – 1815) is regarded as one of the best bronziers of the late Louis XVI and Empire periods. He was born at Villepreux near Versailles. Galle was the apprentice of Pierre Foyin in Paris whose daughter he married in 1784. He became master bronze caster in 1786. After the death of his father-in-law in 1788 Galle took over his workshop. He soon turned it into one of the best bronze workshops in Paris and finally he employed around four hundred craftsmen. He moved to Quai de la Monnaie (later Quai de l’Unité), and then in 1805 to 9 Rue Vivienne.

Galle obtained many commissions of the Royal family (Garde-Meuble de la Couronne) from 1786-1788. He worked with with masters like Pierre-Philippe Thomire, and furnished the majority of the furnishing bronzes for the Château de Fontainebleau during the Empire. Also he supplied supplied with ormolu bronzework to the palaces of Saint-Cloud, The Trianons, The Tuileries, Compiègne and Rambouillet.
Galle’s work is in the collection of museums like Musée National du Château de Malmaison, Musée Marmottan in Paris, the ‘museo de Reloges’ at Jerez de la Frontera, The Residenz in Munich, and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. Claude Galle died in 1815 after which his son Gérard-Jean Galle (1788-1846) continued the business.

Artistic Inspiration

The theme of Erato and Eros has been an inspiration for many artists through time like Simon Vouet (1590-1649), Bernard d’Agesci – synonym of Augustin Bernard –  (1756-1828) and Bertel Thorvaldsen (1770-1844). See the photos at the end for their artworks.

Empire clocks from the top bronziers, such as Claude Galle, are more than just clocks. They are works of art with a balance in composition, forms and expressions and achieve a high degree of realism, perfectionism and delicacy.

See more Empire Clocks in our gallery.

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