Watch and Listen

Clock with a Chinese figure

In the mid-18th century, the European passion for chinoiseries could be seen in furniture items, both in the materials used (lacquer and porcelain), and the subject matter, depicting different motifs or figures evocative of an imaginary or fantasized Far East, in the manner of this small clock.

Clock with a Chinese figure
Circa 1730-1760
Gilded bronze, enamel and glass
28 x 35 x 22 cm

Narrated by Dr. Fabienne Fravalo, curator of the Decorative Arts Collection

Sitting with her legs to the side, sheltered by the leaves of the palm tree beside her, a young woman dressed in Chinese-style clothing leans with her left arm against a small circular clock. The clock itself is reduced to a mere accessory, as seen through its off-centre position. It is almost forgotten, leaving pride of place to the female figure.

This ambiguity, typical of the decorative bronzes from the reign of Louis XV, at once utilitarian and veritable sculptural objects, may also be found in a pair of andirons of the same inspiration.

In addition to its asymmetrical composition, this clock presents all the codes of Rococo, associating naturalistic elements, like the palm tree and branches held by the young woman, and stylized elements, such as the hillock that supports her. Finally, the exoticism of the subject, freely interpreted, goes hand in hand with the taste for Chinese porcelain, then booming.