Story of the clock
A Unique Baroque Astronomical Musical Clock Le Roy A Paris
This unique astronomical musical clock was crafted at the legendary Paris-based clock making workshop of Julien and Pierre Le Roy in the second third of the 18th century, likely around 1740. During this time France was ruled by King Louis XV and was a European centre of culture. This extremely rare Baroque console clock represents a beautiful example of the very finest French clock-making and cabinet-making artistry. Without doubt, it is one of the finest clocks of its type in the world.
Such a highly decorative and mechanically complex clock is entirely unavailable on the world art market. Similar clocks can just barely be found amidst the collections of the world’s finest museums. Clocks of this type were custom-made for the wealthiest members of royal families and aristocracies. For example, King Louis XV had a similar astronomical clock made for Madame de Pompadour.
On a final note, it is important to add that this clock represents a discovery which significantly enriches our knowledge and understanding of the clock-making work of the Julien and Pierre Le Roy workshop. Such a sumptuous clock can be ornament in any private collection or museum in the world.
the second third of the 18th century
This particular clock comes from the Palais Daun-Kinsky, one of the most notable High Baroque palaces in Vienna, from the estate of Prince Frantisek Oldrich Kinsky (1936 - 2009).
In all likelihood, the clock presented here was made on order of astronomer Jacques Cassini (1677-1756). Later, the piece may have been given as a gift – or even made for – a member of the Kinský aristocratic family. It was Stephan Wilhelm, 1st Prince Kinský of Wchinitz and Tettau (1679 – 1749), who in 1729 was named by Emperor Charles VI as an Imperial Ambassador to the Court of King Louis XV of France. In this post he went on to cultivate close personal ties with the highest levels of the French aristocracy. One can therefore assume that it was this service which helped to later secure the transfer of such an exquisite clock to the Palias Daun-Kinsky in Vienna.
was made at the legendary Paris-based clock making workshop of Julien and Pierre Le Roy.
The clock movement is made from brass and steel, with a verge escapement – built for a reduced pendulum swing – ensuring greater accuracy. The oscillator is a short rod pendulum with a brass lens. The clock frame is comprised of a large brass case featuring four supporting struts. The clock movement is spring-driven. One winding enables eight days of continuous operation. Motion, striking, and music-playing power is transferred from the mainspring mechanism to a fusee equaliser gear via a steel-cord mechanism. A musical cylinder is found in the right upper part of the clock frame with a comb that plays a predetermined carillon melody. Nine metal bells are struck to produce the clock’s musical chimes. A repeating quarter-hour striking mechanism, situated at the left, strikes on one standalone metal bell. In total, the clock contains ten bells. It plays a melody every 15 minutes, while on the hour it plays both a melody and strikes the respective number of hours. Manual regulators enable repetition and striking to be activated and deactivated. The clock’s indicator functions are located underneath the dial on a metal base plate. This serves as a central hub to reinforce the entire dial and movement.
The clock dial
is made from handcrafted gold-plated sheet copper containing relief ornaments, with a central enamel dial and seven smaller hand-crafted enamel dials featuring rich Baroque ornamentation. The large central clock dial contains twelve inner enamel Latin number plates, indicating hours, as well as twelve outer enamel number plates in Arabic numerals to indicate minutes. Two smaller clock dials are found inside this larger face, which indicate the repetition and striking settings. The lower left area contains a dial showing the position of the Sun with respect to the length of the day; a dial on the lower right indicates the moon phase. A further three dials display the annual calendar: the middle semi-circular clock dial is signed Le Roy A Paris and shows the day of the month; the left dial shows the month of the year, the number of days in each month, and the sign of the Zodiac; the right dial shows the days of the week and astronomical symbols.
contains elements from the late Baroque era and was crafted in the fantastical design and ornamental spirit of the Rococo era. The case is richly decorated with ornaments covered in fire-gilded bronze. One bronze cast is signed by the fondeur-ciseleur. The top of the case contains a bronze sculpture depicting an eagle and snake in battle. The sides of the case are decorate with bronze sculptures featuring the heads of Baroque putto. The case is made from oak, inlaid with brass, mother-of-pearl and horn of various colour. The sides are partially glassed-in. It is known that the clockmaker Julien Le Roy worked closely with the painter Thuret, which may have helped the former to imprint upon his clocks an appearance of lightness and ease of motion. This is assisted by the colours of the selected materials, which stand in elegant contrast to the shiny gold-plated bronze statuettes. The case is decorated with a loose plant motif, combining black, red, green and blue. The sumptuousness of the case is underscored by the authentic wall console, made from the same materials as the case itself.
of the clock
124 x 50 x 24 cm
Total weight of the clock: 30 kg
movement is in fully functional condition, signs of age and usage, the case, dials and movement is preserved in exceptionally good condition with minor damage.
Literatura: La Dynastie des Le Roy, horlogers du roi: Exposition, Musée des beaux-arts de Tours, 11 avril-14 juin 1987, strana 25, 64 a 65.
Pages 64-65, in the book La Dynastie des Le Roy, horlogers du roi, from 1987, feature a picture of a similar astronomical clock movement unit built by Julien Le Roy. In comparison to the clock presented here, both can be said to be functionally very similar, albeit the one in the book contains far less elaborate and decorative enamel dials.
Page 25 of the aforementioned book also states that Julien Le Roy only created three astronomical clocks until the year 1739. Indeed, technically and financially, this was a very demanding production on the part of Julien Le Roy and was even approved by the French Royal Academy of Sciences.
Literatura: Palais Daun-Kinsky, Wien, Freyung/Beiträge ... von Hellmut Lorenz, 2001, strana 202.
Additionally, a book entitled Palais Daun-Kinsky, published in 2001, contains photographs of this clock printed on page 202.
Literatura: European Clocks in The J. Paul Getty museum, ISBN 0-89236-254-5, Kalifornie 1996, strana 185-190.
Page 186 of a 1996 publication entitled European Clocks, found in the J. Paul Getty Museum states that Julien Le Roy produced astronomical clocks of high technical quality.
La Dynastie des Le Roy
horlogers du roi
Pages 64-65, in the book La Dynastie des Le Roy, horlogers du roi, feature a picture of a similar astronomical clock movement unit built by Julien Le Roy. In comparison to the clock presented here, both can be said to be functionally very similar, albeit the one in the book contains far less elaborate and decorative enamel dials. Page 25 of the aforementioned book also states that Julien Le Roy created only three astronomical clocks until the year 1739.
The book entitled Palais Daun-Kinsky, published in 2001, contains photographs of this clock printed on page 202.
Musée international d'horlogerie, Centre d'étude Institut l'homme et le temps
The J. Paul Getty Museum, 1200 Getty Center Drive, Los Angeles, CA 90049-1687
Jean Claude Sabrier - expert
We would like to thank the above mentioned entities for their willingness and helpfulness with reviewing and acquiring information about these clock.
Horloger du roi Louis XV
Julien Le Roy was excellent clockmaker, watchmaker and innovator. He was "the most skillful clockmaker in France, possibly in Europe." He belonged to the fifth generation of a family of clockmakers. With his brothers and son, he formed one of the most important clock and watch workshops in the 18th century.
He was born in Tours in 1686, and by the age of 13, had already made his first clock. In 1699, he moved to Paris for further training by clockmaker LEBON.
In 1713, he became maître horloger and later juré of his guild. From 1735 to 1737 he was also chairman of the Société des Arts. In 1739, Julien Le Roy was being appointed clockmaker to King Louis XV (Horloger Ordinaire du Roi).
He ran his own celebrated workshop in the Rue de Harlay until his death in 1759.
Horloger du roi Louis XV
(1717 - 1785)
was brilliant French clockmaker and watchmaker. He was the inventor of the detent escapement, the temperature-compensated balance and the isochronous balance spring. He worked with his father Julien Le Roy. After his father's death, he took over the renowned workshop and ran it until the early 1780s. His excellence in the particular field of marine watches earned him a double prize from the Academy of Sciences for the best method of measuring time at sea.
Julien Le Roy ran his own celebrated clock and watch making workshop, located in La rue de Harlay in Paris, France. In this workshop, Le Roy both personally made and also oversaw the construction of clocks and pocket watches. His son, the brilliant clockmaker Pierre Le Roy (1717-1785), served as his father’s right-hand-man and close collaborator. After the death of Julien, Pierre took over the workshop from his father. The Julien and Pierre Le Roy workshop boasted a broad clientele of wealthy customers, including many members of European aristocratic and royal families. Clock cases were supplied to this workshop by the very best manufacturers, for example André-Charles Boulle, the Caffiéris, Balthazar Lieutaud, Robert Osmond, Jean-Joseph de Saint-Germain and Antoine Foullet. Clock faces were frequently supplied to the workshop by Antoine-Nicolas Martiniere, Nicolas Jullien, and likely also Elie Barbezat.
Julien and Pierre Le Roy clocks and watches can be seen at the finest museums around the world. These include the Musées du Louvre; Musée d’Horlogerie in La Chaux-de-Fonds; JP Getty Museum in California; at the Palace of Versailles; in the Musée Jacquemart-André; in the Musée Cognacq-Jay; in the Petit Palais in Paris; in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London; in Waddesdon Manor, Buckinghamshire; in Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam; in the Musées Royaux d´Art et d´Histoire in Brussels, and many more.