A French mantel clock in the shape of a reclining bacchante, signed on the dial Galle Rue Vivienne à Paris, c. 1810. The case depicts an ormolu nude eating grapes on a chaise longue. The whole is set on a vert de mer marble base and is richly embellished by ormolu appliques, typical of the period. Lying on her daybed, a female bacchanal figure with a simple drape accentuating her hips holds aloft a cluster of grapes, bringing them voluptuously up to her lips. Arranged around her feet are a tambourine, thyrsus and two ewers – symbols of the Dionysian festivals. Rich ornamental bronze imagery, featuring two opposing lionesses on the façade, grape-filled baskets, a young goat on its hind legs, and musical trophies, occupies a significant part of the frieze décor. The enamel dial with Roman numerals is set into the frame of the daybed, the feet of which are in the form of hooves adorned with satyr masks. The movement of two-week duration is constructed between round plates, has anchor recoil escapement, and a silk-suspended pendulum with regulation from the front with a watch key. It has count-wheel strike for the hours and half hours on a silvered bell. • Height: 52 cm. • Note: The semi-reclining nymph figure, surrounded by bacchic attributes, makes reference to the tragic love story of Bacchus and Erigone. In the Metamorphosis, Ovid tells the tale of a peasant named Ikarios who lived with his daughter Erigone (“born with the dawn”). Ikarios, unaware of his guest’s identity, plays host to Bacchus, who, in exchange, presents him with a grape vine and teaches him how to transform the fruit into wine. Wanting to share this gift with the shepherds of Attica, Ikarios offers them a flask filled with wine, and not knowing its effects they proceed to drink without measure. Furious, and convinced that they have been poisoned, the shepherds club Ikarios to death, abandoning his corpse beneath a tree. Concerned about her father who had been missing for so many days and months, Erigone goes in search of him only to find his dead body. Inconsolable, the young girl hangs herself from the tree which marks her father’s burial place. Erigone is represented here under Love’s spell, in that one delightful moment when she succumbs to Bacchus, who, to seduce her, transforms himself into a bunch of grapes. Characteristic of First Empire taste for moral themes of heroism and courage, this tragic subject is expressed here in all its beauty. • Literature: Michael Shapiro, ‘Monsieur Galle, Bronzier et Doreur’, The J. Paul Getty Museum Journal, Vol. 6/7 (1978/1979), pp. 57-74; Louna Zek, ‘Bronzes d’ameublement et meubles français achetés par Paul Ier pour le château Saint-Michel de Saint-Pétersbourg en 1798-99’, Bulletin de la Société de l’Histoire de l’Art Français, 1994; Jean-Dominique Augarde, ‘Une nouvelle vision du bronze et des bronziers sous le Directoire et l'Empire’, L'Estampille-L’Objet d'art, January 2005, no. 398, pp. 62-85.
The Horological Foundation Desk Diary Project.
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