An eight-day going train. Striking train strikes the hours in full and once every half hour. Enameled dial with Roman numerals to indicate the hours and indents for the minutes. Central date indication with Arabic numerals. The numerals for the time indication are in gold, the date numerals are in black enamel.
An impressive “pendule de sujet” of an extraordinary quality and condition. The green marble base, resting on six refined gilt bronze lions feet, is decorated with a central gilt bronze relief with a depiction of dancing nymphs. On either side of this relief a diamond shaped relief with a depiction of grapes and insects.
The clockwork is mounted in a relatively simple shaped squared case that is topped with a pine cone. The case is standing between rocks and rampant vines in the back. On the left stands a patinated bronze figure depicting Zephyr, the friendly Western wind. With his right hand he holds a wreath of flowers over the head of the patinated bronze figure on the right; Erigone. She is sitting on a lion’s pelt and holds a gilt goblet in her right hand and gilt grapes in her left. On top of the case we find the inscription: “Zéphir precede Bacchus au Coeur d’Ergone et de plaisir ses sens émus Elle dit, Ah, Zéphir me Couronne.”
The representation refers to the myth of Erigone and Bacchus. Bacchus caries a torch for Erigone. To seduce her Bacchus changes to the shape of a grape. When Erigone eats the disguised Bacchus, she immediately realizes she is pregnant. She gives birth to a son named Staphylus.
In Greek mythology Erigone (“she who is born at dawn”) is the daughter of Icarius. According to a myth of Athens Dionysus teaches Icarius and Erigone to grow vines and make wine. Icarius, proud of his achievements, invites his neighbors to have a taste. The guests carouse and know no measure. Becoming very drunk, they cannot but conclude that this wine is poison and hence take Icarius’ life. When his daughter becomes aware of this tragedy, she hangs herself over her father’s grave. Dionysus is outraged when he hears this story. He sends a plague over Athens. All young women go insane and kill themselves. The people of Athens realized they had judged Icarius to harsh and started to organize a festival in the honour of Icarius and his daughter. During the festivities little statuettes representing Icarius and Erigone are hung up in the trees.
The second statue on the mantel clock is not Bacchus, who, after all, is disguised as a grape, but Zephyr, the Western wind and the friendliest of the Anemoi. Zephyr is the servant to Eros, and the bringer of spring (and fertility). This could explain why it is he who brings the disguised Bacchus to Erigone. Zephyr is also named as the father of Karpos, the god of fruit.
Although the myth that is pictured here is somewhat obscure, it was a favorite theme in the visual arts from the middle of the eighteenth century. The design of this particular representation is attributed to Thomire. The inspiration, however, could very well be found in a picture of Boucher. The Wallace Collection holds a “dessus porte” painting of François Boucher (1703-1770) dated 1745, that is titled; “Bacchus et Erigone”. It is a painting of a series of four representing the seasons. Bacchus and Erigone her stand for autumn.
Duffy, Stephen, and Hedley, Jo, The Wallace Collection's Pictures: A Complete Catalogue, London: The Trustees of the Wallace Collection, 2004
Ingamells, John, The Wallace Collection Catalogue of Pictures III: French before 1815, London: The Trustees of The Wallace Collection 1985, pp. 59-61
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