Important late Louis XVI mantel clock “Toilette of Venus” signed Claude Galle

Late Louis XVI clock “Toilette of Venus” signed Bourdier & Galle

A late Louis XVI, Directory period (1795-1799), French mantel clock  on the subject of the toilette of Venus. The clock has been executed in chased, patinated and gilded bronze and the dial carries the dual signatures “Galle, Rue Vivienne à Paris” (referring to Claude Galle) and “Bourdier Horloger”. Further, the clockwork is inscribed in a case flanked by Venus and a putto holding an ewer, resting on a sea-green marble plinth finished with flattened ball feet.

The clock depicts the scene of the “Toilette of Venus” where Venus is getting dressed for the day with the assistance of a putto. It shows us Venus in a very suggestive pose and Eros who looks up to her. The figure is very graceful and of such high quality, that it is customarily attributed to the most famous sculptor of the 18th century, Maurice Etienne Falconet (1716-1791). Venus is barefoot, her hair and cloth are in the antique style, and she has a rose in her hair as a sign of love. Eros stands on a pile of rocks, his bow lying at his feet. Also, Venus holds her hands over a bowl in a very gracious manner as a gesture of purity while Eros hands a jug with water to Venus.

The bezel is decorated with a floral band of pomegranates, grapes and rose blossoms. The base relief shows exuberant, winged figures of putti with wind instruments, dancing around a vessel with rose buds, celebrating a feast.

Details of this late Louis XVI clock “Toilette of Venus”

The eight-days going movement has a wire suspension pendulum. It has a twin-barrel movement with count wheel strike on a bell. It strikes the hour and half hour on it’s bell. The clock is in a excellent and perfect working condition. Also, it has recently been cleaned and serviced by a professional clock maker. The clock comes complete with its pendulum, key and bell.

France, Directory period.
Dimensions: 45 cm high, 34 cm wide and 14.5 cm deep.
Weight: 18.7 kg.

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.

Jean-Simon Bourdier (1760-1839)

The esteemed Parisian clockmaker and Horloger-Mécanicien, Jean-Simon Bourdier made the movement. He became a maître-horloger in 1787 establishing himself at Quai de l’Horloge until about 1806 when he moved to Rue Mazarine.  His clocks were housed in the finest and most elaborate cases suitable to furnish a number of royal palaces.

Jean Simon Bourdier (1760-1839) was one of the most innovative clockmakers of his time. Jean-Simon Bourdier became a maitre horloger in Paris on 22 September 1787 and immediately became known for the perfection of his movements. In the early 19th century, he worked with the clockmaker Godon, the designer Dugourc and the sculptor Pierre Julien, producing several remarkable pieces destined for the Spanish king Charles IV. In parallel, he worked with the most influential merchants of the time, and particularly Daguerre and Julliot, carefully choosing the artisans who collaborated with him in the production of fine clocks. Among them the ebenistes Lieutaud and Riesener as well as the bronziers Galle, Thomire and Rémond, the cabinetmaker Schwerdfeger and the enamelers Dubuisson and Coteau. His clocks were also sold by the dealers Daguerre, Lignereux and Juilliot.


  • French Bronze Clocks, Elke Niehüser, p.106-107, p.211 #311.
  • H. Ottomeyer, P. Proschel et al., ” Vergoldete Bronzen – Die Bronzearbeiten des Spätbarock und Klassizismus“, Munich, 1986, Vol. I, p.245, fig. 4.6.5.
  • Dictionnaire des horlogers français, Tardy, p.74.

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