For thirty-five years I have specialised in works of art and clocks of the 18th and early 19th centuries. I started off at 13 rue de Beaune in Paris, after an initial training as a clockmaker which equipped me with a better understanding of the technical aspects of clocks. I am very rigorous about the integrity of a piece: dials and movements must always be contemporary with and original to the clock case.
My activity has developed in the last fifteen years towards Chinese, Japanese and European porcelains mounted with 18th century gilt bronzes. I am now recognised as an expert on the authenticity of these mounted objects as well as other gilt bronzes and clocks.
Gilt bronze demands a thorough understanding of the object; with this, one makes progress each year, without it the passage of time achieves nothing. When you buy an object covered in dirt, you need to know if the original mercury gilding exists under the grime or if it is worn or has completely disappeared. This distinction is essential as the item’s value will not be the same at all. I would never buy a work of art or a clock that has been re-gilt.
The field is often ill-understood and the subject of debate, most of the time through lack of connoisseurship. Here, it pays to be modest. The current fashion for the analysis of metals used in the composition of bronze can be helpful. However, no magic machine yet exists which will provide the exact date of creation of the object under examination. In the end, knowledge and the eye count the most, both today and for a long time to come.
Collection of Hubert de Givenchy, Paris
For a pair of similar vases with foliate handles in place of ram’s heads see another pair also from the collection of Hubert de Givenchy, sold Christie’s Monaco, 4 December 1993, lots 28 and 29, and subsequently with Galerie Didier Aaron, Paris, reproduced in Catalogue XI.
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