Garniture (One Clock and Two Vases)

three vases in Chinese porcelain, embellished with gilt bronze mounts, one vase with a gilded serpent keeping time

Clock movement by Jean Martin (active 1737−1786)
Porcelain: Chinese, Qing dynasty, Qianlong period (1736−95)
Garniture of One Clock and Two Vases
Paris, c. 1764
Hard-paste porcelain known as celadon bleu fleuri, gilt bronze, and enameled metal
Clock: 21 in., diameter: 8 in. (53.3 cm, diameter: 20.3 cm)
Vases: 14 in., diameter: 9 in. each (35.6 cm, diameter: 22.9 cm)
Horace Wood Brock Collection

Although by the eighteenth century mechanisms had become both reliable and accurate, clocks continued to function as important status symbols indicating their owners’ wealth and refinement. This set is made with three vases in the rare Chinese porcelain known as celadon bleu fleuri. Soon after they reached France, the vases were embellished with gilt-bronze mounts and a movement by Jean Martin in an attempt to satisfy French collectors’ perpetual quest for increasingly more elaborate and novel luxury items.

The mounts reflect the latest style, the goût grec (Greek taste), which developed in the 1760s and 1770s as a reaction to the rococo style favored by Louis XV and his court. Here the beautifully chased mounts include crowns of laurel, acanthus leaves, pilasters, lion masks, and other motifs inspired by classical Greek and Roman architecture. A gilded snake indicates the time.

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