Clock with Full-length Figure of George Washington

French

FAPG 19270D

c. 1815–17

Clock with Full-length Figure of George Washington, about 1815–17
French
Works probably by Jean-Baptiste Dubuc, (1743–1819), Paris (active 1806–1817)
Case probably by Gabriel (or L. Jeune) Rabiat, Paris (active 1810–20)
Ormolu, with enamel dial and clock works
14 3/4 in. high, 10 1/4 in. wide, 4 1/4 in. deep
Signed and inscribed (with engraving, on drapery swag beneath dial): *Washington* / First, in war, First, in Peace / and / First, in his Countrymen’s, heart; (with engraving, on plinth below eagle): e Pluribus unum; (with incised cast letter, inside of plinth bearing the inscription “e Pluribus unum”): R

Description

Clock with Full-length Figure of George Washington, about 1815–17
French
Works probably by Jean-Baptiste Dubuc, (1743–1819), Paris (active 1806–1817)
Case probably by Gabriel (or L. Jeune) Rabiat, Paris (active 1810–20)
Ormolu, with enamel dial and clock works
14 3/4 in. high, 10 1/4 in. wide, 4 1/4 in. deep
Signed and inscribed (with engraving, on drapery swag beneath dial): *Washington* / First, in war, First, in Peace / and / First, in his Countrymen’s, heart; (with engraving, on plinth below eagle): e Pluribus unum; (with incised cast letter, inside of plinth bearing the inscription “e Pluribus unum”): R

EXHIBITED: Hirschl & Adler Galleries, New York, 2011–12, The World of Duncan Phyfe: The Arts of New York, 1800–1847, p. 113 no. 69, illus. 112

EX COLL: George Hampton Carson (1827–1918), Howard County, Missouri (nephew of Kit Carson [1809–1868]); to his daughter, Estelle Carson Collier, Columbia, Missouri; to her son, George Carson Collier; to his wife, Lee S. Collier, until 2004

Beginning in the mid-eighteenth century, a large variety of ceramics, glass, metalwork, and prints made abroad—particularly in Britain, continental Europe, and the Orient—was specifically designed for the American market. By nature of their patriotic, topographical, or historical subject matter, these objects were intended to appeal to Americans who wanted to commemorate the people, places, and events of significance to the emergent nation. 

Among the most popular of these items was a range of ormolu, and ormolu and patinated bronze clocks featuring busts or full-length statuettes of George Washington, together with other historical and patriotic devices. In the present clock, Washington’s stance and dress—he is dressed in the uniform he wore while Commander-in-Chief of the American military—were apparently derived from an engraving after John Trumbull’s portrait, General George Washington Before the Battle of Trenton. The general stands on an oblong plinth, its frieze ornamented with a mount consisting of a central mask flanked by scrolls and palmettes. The clock housing is surmounted by a plinth, inscribed with the engraved motto “e Pluribus unum”, on which rests an American eagle, symbol of the new Republic. The drapery swag below the dial is inscribed with the engraved name of “Washington” and a quotation from the funeral oration given by Col. Lighthorse Harry Lee before Congress on December 26, 1799: “First, in War, First, in Peace, / and First, in his Countrymen’s heart”. Unlike other examples of this clock that have appeared, here the quotation from Lee is engraved rather than cast, and the final line of the quotation from Lee varies from the usual “First in The HEARTS of his COUNTRYMEN.”

Clocks of this general design, featuring the full-length figure of Washington, were made in the years following Washington’s death by several Parisian clockmakers, of whom the most frequently encountered is Jean-Baptiste Dubuc (born 1743), who was maitre-horloger to the Compte d’Artois (brother of Louis XVI), who worked at 33, Rue Michel-le-Compte from 1804 to1817. On rare occasion Washington clocks were customized with the names of American retailers, including one example which bears the name of Thomas Demilt of New York (catalogue, sale 7530, Christie’s, New York, October 28, 1992, no. 157 illus. in color), and it is possible that the rare omission of Dubuc’s name on the dial of this clock may have been precipitated by the ultimate intention to inscribe it, again, with the name of an American retailer. (In all other respects, the enamel dial on this clock is identical to those found on all other Washington clocks of this model and size.)

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