A fine fire-gilt mantel clock featuring a roman soldier and weapons. (c. 1785 France)

A fine fire-gilt mantel clock featuring a roman soldier and weapons.
Title A fine fire-gilt mantel clock featuring a roman soldier and weapons.
Country of Origin France
Dated c. 1785
Medium Fire gilt bronze
Signed/Inscribed/Dated De Larue Paris
Condition Very good
Dimensions 39.50cm high (15.55 inches high)
Status SOLD
Description / Expertise

D385. De Larue Paris, Circa 1785. A fine fire-gilt mantel clock based on a military theme.

The fire-gilding on this clock is particularly fine, with all the highlights being beautifully burnished. To the left is a helmeted soldier holding a ring over a fire. Leaves surround the fine convex enamelled dial which is surrounded by a finely executed gilded and engine turned bezel.

To the right is a flag and in the foreground a helmet and various weapons. Alongside this is a sword and shield. The decorative gilded base rests on one of white marble with recessed panels
which contain further gilded decoration.

Ht 15.5" (39.5cm)


During late eighteenth century France Neo-classicism dominated the arts and came to influence paintings and luxury works of art alike. As such this clock case relates to Antiquity and in particular Aeneas, the epic hero in Virgil’s Aeneid. Its design appears to be unique among a number Louis XVI clock cases featuring figures from the Trojan War. Whether representing mythological love scenes or valiant leaders, designs for such cases invariably include a number of decorative motifs that are all associated with the main theme. This clock case is no exception. Together the oak tree sprays, the armorial motifs, the burning flames and flag all relate to the Trojan leader Aeneas, who we see here in full military dress. Aeneas, who was the son of Venus, goddess of love and Anchises, married Creusa, the daughter of Priam, king of Troy. Virgil recounted how he accompanied Paris to Sparta in search of Helen and confronted the principal Greek heroes during the Trojan War. Following the sack of Troy by the Greeks, Aeneas escaped with his men and after many adventures reached Latium in Italy, where they settled near Pallanteum and became the legendary ancestors of the Roman people. Proving a brave leader who remained steadfast to his cause, Virgil likened Aeneas to a strong rooted oak tree that could not be overcome even by a mighty wind. This simile is represented by the abundant oak leaves sprays around the dial and again on the pedestal and plinth below. Furthermore the oak was an attribute of Jupiter, the chief Olympian deity, who was always there to protect and watch over Aeneas.

The case also includes other artefacts that relate to Aeneas such as the brazier that burns beside him. This can be read on several levels. The fire may represent the burning of Troy, during which Aeneas rescued his aged father whom he carried on his back; Aeneas’s son accompanied them but his wife Creusa was lost in the darkness. Flames also symbolise love – not only Aeneas’s love of his family but Dido, the Carthaginian queen. In her quest to create harmony between the Trojans and Carthaginians, Venus caused Dido to fall in love with Aeneas after Cupid had worked his magic. After spending a winter together Mercury came with orders from Jupiter that Aeneas should leave Dido and be on his way. Following a desperate farewell Dido built a funeral pyre, she then slew herself using her lover’s sword (as shown amongst the weapons) and threw herself onto the flames (as again represented on the clock).

The reference to love is again symbolised by the quiver of arrows, shown here behind the sword. Cupid is often represented in art with a quiver across his back out of which he drew an arrow causing one mythological character to fall in love with another – this was often on the behest of Venus, Aeneas’s mother. In front of the quiver is an array of Aeneas’s weapons including his sword, axe and shield while below the dial and to the left are further arms, another shield and his helmet. To the right, behind the armorial collection, is a flag billowing in the wind, which as a symbol of Aeneas’s victories may also represent the wind itself. Virgil told how during a sea voyage the goddess Juno, who was on the side of the Greeks, wanted to destroy the Trojan fleet. She therefore persuaded Aeolus, who controlled the winds, to release them so as to create a great storm. However Neptune, king of the sea, calmed the waters; though some of the fleet was shipwrecked Aeneas survived.

In Aeneas’s outstretched hand he holds what appears to be a laurel wreath (laurel being a symbol of victory). However it might equally represent a sprig from the golden bough or even an olive branch. Perhaps its modelling is purposely vague so that it could represent all three. Aeneas, eager to be reunited with his father, was told that if he picked a sprig from the golden bough he would be granted access to the underworld where he could see Anchises before being taken back to earth. Virgil also recounts how having reached the Tiber the Trojans were confronted by hostile tribes at Latium. Aeneas however managed to calm the situation; as he sailed up the river toward the Arcadian city of Pallanteum – the future site of Rome, he stood in the prow of his boat holding out an olive branch. This act of peace allowed him to make an alliance with Evander, king of Pallanteum. The clock therefore tells the story of Virgil’s hero, combining symbols of love, war, valour and honour. At the same time it should be appreciated as a high quality work of art which, so unusual in design, was most probably made as a special commission for an eighteenth century military leader.

Contact dealer about this item »