(Enlarged Photo)

An Amboyna Mantel Clock by Baullier et Fils Rue Vendome Paris
During the 18th and 19th Centuries French craftsmen perfected techniques of decorative metal finishing that have never been surpassed, particularly for the horological and jewellery industries. In fact when restoring artefacts from the period it is often very difficult to establish what their methods were and how to replicate them.

We had a recent example of this problem in the shape of a mantel clock by the firm of Baullier et Fils, who worked in Paris in the Rue Vendôme around 1830. The simple domed case is veneered in the tropical hardwood called amboyna, which resembles burr walnut but is superior in both colour and figuring. The beauty of the wood is enhanced by crisply-chiselled ormolu mounts and an open ormolu dial that has been engine-turned and the numerals painted. But the piece-de-resistance is a rectangular panel, framed in ormolu, which occupies most of the clock front below the dial. Depending on the angle from which you are looking the surface appears like a mirror or a sheet of finely engraved glass, overlaid with elaborate floral decoration. There is a trompe-l’oeuil effect which gives the illusion of seeing through to the interior of the case. Fortunately, careful cleaning revealed that the surface was undamaged.

The two-train movement has an outside count-wheel, striking on a bell, and a delicate pendulum on a silk suspension.

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