320In our November sale we are offering this beautiful French Aesthetic Movement brass mantle clock, the Aesthetic Movement was coming to its end by the time this would have been made, probably by the 1880’s. The Movement started around 1860 and it focused around the pure essence of beauty, the French poet, Théophile Gautier coined the phrase “Art for art’s sake” or put another way, the “Cult of Beauty”. Its focus was a belief of a new visual and emotive quality over the prevalent ideas of the time: those of practical, moral & materialistic ends. In England it was the time of the middle classes attaining what was only dreamed about previously: moving to the city and forgetting nature and the past. It was a movement that was born out of the rejection of The Great Exhibition of 1851, which celebrated modern industry, technology and design while it promoted the future based on technological advancements. This future was new and bright; out with the Old and in with the New.

 

316 - CopyAs you can imagine, this new idealistic movement was led by the artists, writers & poets but also did include architects and designers, the people who could imagine the three dimensional interpretation of the movement. This clock is a perfect example of the Aesthetic Movement, even though it was made using modern machinery of the time, and was made by the famous Brocot family of clock makers in Paris. The stamped mechanism is of Louis Achille Brocot (1817-1878), and this maker’s mark probably dates between 317 - Copy1850-1889. Achille was the third son of Louis-Gabriel Brocot, the father’s claim to fame was the innovation of the Brocot escapement, which is usually visible on the face of most French mantle clocks. Achilles improved on this principle as well as the Brocot suspension, which allows the owner of the clock to adjust the length of the pendulum, allowing the adjustment of time if the clock was to run either slow or fast (the more accurate the clock the better). Achille improved the design to allow this adjustment from the front of the dial (this can be seen on the dial above the 12, a small square rod protrudes that can be adjusted with a key). The movement is a typical French 8-day movement with a coil gong, striking the hours and half hours.

The decoration on the clock, and especially the porcelain front, is pure Aesthetic Movement, depicting both the exotic and also looking back to historical influences as inspiration; nature is depicted with birds, 322 - Copybutterflies & dragonfly motifs. These images are reminiscent of Orientalism, and were an important design addition to the Aesthetic Movement ever since the323 - Copy Far East was opened to the West and successfully displayed at the International Exhibition in 1862. Strangely, these Exhibitions were both a cause for reaction and/or rejection, as well as a great source of inspiration. The architecture of the brass and silver gilt body is based on Gothic elements that were reflected in the movement’s incorporation in the past and the belief of a better time; this is especially true with the gallery top and its pierced quatrefoil decoration.

Did the movement survive? Ultimately no, for several reasons, but primarily because it was an ideal that only the rich could afford, the underlying beliefs that it championed have certainly been taken up by subsequent generations. This clock though is a beautiful reminder of that Movement and what it stood for, and the quality goods the Movement produced to satisfy their wants and needs. 314