Lilly's Art

Empire Mantel Clock “au Dromadaire”

Empireuhr au Dromadaire


Paris, around 1810

patinated bronze, ormolu, ormolu mounts, case design attributed to Jean-André Reiche
anchor escapement, half hour strike on bell with outside countwheel, duration of three weeks
15¾ in

cf.: E. Niehüser: Die Französische Bronzeuhr, Munich 1997, p. 239, fig. 833.

This imaginatively designed sculptural clock “au dromadaire” was crafted at the start of the 19th century in Paris. A timepiece of the same type is housed in the renowned clock museum Musée François Duesberg and is published and depicted in Elke Niehüser’s standard reference work “Die französische Bronzeuhr” (“The French bronze clock”).

Due to its design vocabulary, the conception of this wonderful bronze case is attributed to famous bronzier Jean-André Reiche (1752-1817). Reiche, born in Leipzig, became a master craftsman in Paris in 1785 and was soon among the most influential clock case specialists in the Empire. It was his figural clock cases in particular that propelled him to great recognition, and he was ultimately appointed supplier of the French emperor.

The dromedary with a dark patina is fabricated in painstaking detail and decorated with an ormolu plume and a collar with a bell – possibly a reference to the precious worth of the indispensable “ship of the desert”. On its back, the beast of burden bears an engraved, engine turned and fire-gilt, tasseled fabric drapery in the form of a splendid Ottoman tent – a sumptuous frame for the enamel clock face.

The base, standing on four bell-shaped feet, is also fire-gilt and embellished with mounts with an oriental flair. A trophies-of-war crest of Turkish weapons and banners alongside crescent moons with five-pointed stars (the symbol of the House of Osman) bear witness to Europe’s enormous fascination with the Orient.

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