The Toilette of Venus

After a sculpture attributed to Étienne-Maurice Falconet (French, Paris 1716–1791 Paris)
last quarter 18th century
French, Paris
Case: gilded bronze and marble; Dial: gilded bronze and white enamel; Movement: brass and steel
Overall: 19 3/8 × 14 × 10 1/2 in. (49.2 × 35.6 × 26.7 cm)
Credit Line:
Gift of Edith C. Blum, (et al.) Executors, in memory of Mr. and Mrs. Albert Blum, 1966
Accession Number:
Not on view
By the middle of the eighteenth century, French clockcases were often related to sculpture and to the smaller decorative arts of the period. This clock, with a sculptural group titled the Toilette of Venus, depicts the goddess seated at a circular table and attended by a handmaiden, who can probably be identified as Flora. Cupid reclines at the foot of the table and points to the time, which appears on the revolving chapter rings that are set within the side of the table. The model for this small sculptural group has long been attributed to Étienne-Maurice Falconet (1716–1791) on the basis of the resemblance of the attending figure to Falconet’s marble Bather of 1757. The Bather was modeled in miniature and produced in biscuit porcelain by the Sévres Manufactory, where a number of other porcelains were made from models supplied by Falconet. Falconet also made models of playful infants as ornaments for silver services by François-Thomas Germain (1726–1791) and for at least one clock depicting the Three Graces, but there is no direct evidence that he modeled the figures on this clock. The revolving dials for hours and minutes are driven by a long arbor that is connected to the hour- and half-hour-striking movement in the marble base of the clock. Clocks with revolving dials of this sort were a specialty of the Parisian workshop of the Lepaute family, and one of the most spectacular examples is exhibited in the Museum’s West Gould Gallery.
Edith C. Blum (until 1966; to MMA)