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

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

Exceptional museum quality Empire mantel clock “Le Portefaix”, by Blanc Fils, Palais Royal, in patinated and gilded bronze. It has sublime original mercury gilding with mat and shiny details.

The superb case is a work by the bronzier Jean-André Reiche, who registered the design in January 1808. The watercolor drawing with the design is in the collection of the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris. The novelty of the composition is the free standing figure, where the clock is part of the figure. The clock can be viewed from every side, which is further stressed by the oval base, which is decorated with an applied monkey, swinging between two palm leaves. The figure carries a large bundle of cotton on its back-basket. In his right hand he holds a letter, in his left he leans against a cane. 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 silk thread suspension strikes the hour and half hours with outside count wheel.  It has blued-steel Breguet style hands for the hours and minutes. The white enamel dial carries the signature Blanc Fils, Palais Royal.

This Empire mantel clock Le Portefaix is in an exceptional original museum quality and perfectly working condition. Also, 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”

Paris, circa 1810.
Dimensions: height 36 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, hegained 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 modellers, 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.


  • 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.
  • Tardy II, p. 358.1.

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