- A fine ormulu and marble French Empire mantel clock, Signed on the white enamel dial Lesieur à Paris and on the movement Lesieur,
- The case can likely be attributed to the Parisian bronzier Louis-Isidore Choiselat.
- Height: 46 Width 22,5 cm. Springs dated 1809.
- The clock is original but not recently overhauled.
One of the leading Parisian bronze manufactures of its day, the firm of Choiselat-Gallien was founded by Louis-Isidore Choiselat, the son of a Parisian salt merchant. He was most probably apprenticed to or worked for the bronzier Jean-Baptiste Matthieu Gallien (b. 1753) for in 1812 he married Gallien’s daughter Ambroisine Marie (1794-1861) and then succeeded his father-in-law’s business at 93 rue de Verrerie in Paris. Louis-Isidore and Ambroisine had at least seven children among whom was Charles Choiselat (1815-58) who as a photographer, partnered his brother-in-law Ratel Stanislas, and took a number of portrait daguerreotypes including one of his father seated beside a globe, of which there is an example in the Musée d’Orsay Paris.
As a reflection of the firm’s standing, Choiselat-Gallien was appointed to the Garde-Meuble and, as many clock dials state, made bronzes for S.A.R. Monsieur, the comte d’Artois who was the brother of Louis XVI and was himself crowned King Charles X in 1825. Among many important commissions, Choiselat made the altarpieces for Charles X’s coronation in Reims and also in 1825 six sumptuous gilt bronze candelabra for the high altar in the church of Saint-Sulpice in Paris which were modelled on those he had made for the King’s coronation. Standing about 1.5 metres high, each candelabrum has vine leaves and foliate trails around its columnar stem and a tripod base decorated with angel heads above claw feet. Other more ornate candelabra by Choiselat-Gallien include two pairs with winged Victories, one with twelve-lights and the other with six, which are now in the Mobilier National, Paris. Both were delivered to the Garde-Meuble in 1821 and by 1824 were recorded as being in the service of the duchesse de Berry at the Palais des Tuileries (illustrated and discussed in Marie-France Dupuy-Baylet, “L’Heure, le Feu, la Lumière, les Bronzes du Mobilier National 1800-1870”, 2010, p. 258-259, cat. no.140 and p. 264, cat. no. 144). Other bronzes by Choiselat-Gallien in the Mobilier National include an ecclesiastical clock case with a kneeling figure and a cross mounted upon the pedestal dial which was shown at the Exposition des Produits de l’Industrie in 1823. His firm also made wall-lights such as one with a lion head backplate (illustrated in Ottomeyer and Pröschel, op. cit., p. 359, pl. 5.10.9). However today Choiselat-Gallien is best remembered for his fine quality clock cases, which in addition to those already mentioned includes a lyre-shaped clock in the Bavarian Palace collection, Munich (illustrated Ottomeyer and Pröschel, op. cit., p. 379, pl. 5.15.21). Choiselat-Gallien continued in business until he sold the concern in 1849 to the goldsmith Placide Poussielgue-Rusand (1824-89).
It is perhaps little surprise that Choiselat-Gallien and Lesieur often collaborated with one another since for many years they both worked in rue de la Verrerie. Tardy notes that by 1806 Lesieur was established at Vieille rue du Temple; during 1812-20 and 1830-50 he was at rue de la Verrerie and in 1840 at Boulevard St. Martin. Elsewhere in the Paris almanacs he is recorded at Bar-du-Bec in 1839 and in 1840 at rue des Alexiens. Unfortunately there are very few records concerning Lesieur’s life and career but it is possible that he was the clockmaker François-Eugène Lesieur whose inventory made on 29th August 1848 after his death at 43 rue de Romainville, Belleville, near Paris, is kept in the Archives Nationales. Despite the lack of primary information, we know that Lesieur was a highly respected Parisian clockmaker who was responsible for a number of complex and important clocks, counting among them a mantle clock showing signs of the zodiac with marble columns of 1807-8, in the Hôtel de l’Intendance de la Généralité de Metz, Moselle (originally the Préfecture de la Moselle et de la Région Lorraine). The latter was probably a pair to another identical clock by Lesieur in the Château de Nymphenburg in Bavaria. Lesieur also made the movements for a variety of other clocks, from a late Louis XVI Sèvres porcelain lyre clock to Empire figural clocks. Among them is one featuring Jason and the Golden Fleece which is housed at the Musée de la Malmaison in the appartements de Joséphine de Beauharnais. Lesieur also made a limited number of astronomical bureau clocks with dual dial plinths after a design by Percier and Fontaine. On another occasion, Lesieur together with G. Mayer provided the movements for an interesting pair of figural clocks featuring female and male classical warriors seated upon a canon, in which one with dial signed Lesieur à Paris, indicates the calendar indications and the other, signed G. Mayer à Chalon-sur-Saône, indicates the hours and minutes (illustrated in Pierre Kjellberg, “La Pendule Française du Moyen Age au XXe Siècle”, 1997, p. 410, pl. E). In addition to Choiselat-Gallien, Lesieur also used gilt bronze cases by Etienne Blavet, notably one portraying Achilles swearing to avenge Patroclus (illustrated in Jean-Dominique Augarde, “Les Ouvriers du Temps”, 1996, p. 141, pl. 101). In later career Lesieur was joined by at least one of his sons who, when working from rue de Rivoli, exhibited at the Exposition Universelle in 1855 and was described in the exhibition catalogue as Lesieur (Ant.-J-B) à Paris…Horlogerie de précision; regulateur à equation.”
Note on Ormulu.
Fire gilding, is an old technique of applying gold to a metal surface. Gold amalgam, a solution of fine gold powder in mercury, was applied to the object to be gilded by immersion or with a brush. Then the object, often a bronze statuette or an ornament of a clock, was heated strongly with fire. The mercury evaporated and the gold precipitated on the bronze.
The technique was extremely dangerous because mercury vapor is a heavy poison. The workmen lost their teeth, their hair and eventually their minds and their lives. Around 1830, the technique was strictly prohibited everywhere. A major project using this technique is the golden dome of Saint Isaac's Cathedral in Saint Petersburg. Tradition speaks of 17 victims of mercury poisoning.
Fire-gilt clocks, especially mantel clocks, are rare and expensive. The fire-gilded surface is fragile and difficult to repair.