Porcelain and ormolu clock and barometer by Balthazard

By Balthazard, Michel (French, active late 19th Century) | Japy Freres (French, founded 1806)


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This companion pair is comprised of a wall clock and a wall barometer, both instruments featuring identical ormolu (gilt bronze) cases and inset with matching porcelain plaques painted in the manner of François Boucher. Each instrument includes a circular enamel dial set within an ormolu drum. The clock dial is inscribed with Roman numeral hour marks and Arabic numeral five-minute marks and is signed ‘Balthazard / A Paris’, while the barometer dial is inscribed with various designations of air pressure and is signed ‘Passemant / Au Louvre’.

The drum of each instrument is surmounted by an elaborate crown wrought from ormolu and inset with a porcelain plaque. This oval plaque is painted with a cherub surrounded by instruments of astronomical learning, including a telescope and a celestial globe, all encompassed by a parcel gilt green border. The porcelain plaque is contained by an ormolu frame, topped by a ribbon-tied crest; this frame is flanked by ormolu draped bunches of fruit and foliage that curve to encompass the line of the clock or barometer drum below.

Below the drum is appended an additional ormolu frame, which contains a shaped porcelain plaque painted, like the plaque above, with a depiction of a cherub. This cherub holds a compass and a book and sits beside a telescope and an armillary sphere, all emblems of the science of astronomy. The case is marked at the bottom by a pinecone pendant finial.

This clock-barometer companion pair is after an original barometer-thermometer by Claude-Siméon Passemant, the much celebrated Ingénieur du Roi to Louis XV. Passemant gained premises in the Louvre in 1740 and supplied the King and Court with instruments and other engineered objects—his relation to the present pieces being evinced by the inclusion of his name on the dial of the barometer. The marchand-mercier Simon-Philippe Poirier supplied a model after one by Passemant to Madame du Barry in 1769, which subsequently increased the fashion for such objects—indeed, clocks and barometers in this style were produced until the end of the 19th Century and beyond. The astronomical allusions on the porcelain plaques likely relate to the transit of Venus on June 3, 1769, which was a much-discussed event at the time and was perhaps the reason for Madame du Barry’s acquisition of her instrument—she reportedly watched the transit through a telescope with the King.

The movement of the clock is marked with the stamp of Japy Freres.

Similar instruments by Passemant are held in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum in New York, the Louvre in Paris, and the Victoria and Albert in London.


Artist / Maker
By Balthazard, Michel (French, active late 19th Century), Japy Freres (French, founded 1806)
Country of Origin
Date of Manufacture
c. 1870
Late 19th Century
Louis XV, Rococo
Enamel, Ormolu (Gilt Bronze), Porcelain
Gold, Green, Multi-coloured, White


67 cm / 26.4 inches
28 cm / 11 inches
9 cm / 3.5 inches


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