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Wall clock

© 1987 RMN / Daniel Arnaudet

Decorative Arts
18th century: rococo

Ducrot Brigitte

Around the middle of the eighteenth century, competition between porcelain factories forced faience makers to adopt new techniques. This faience clock, produced in the Strasbourg workshop of Paul Hannong, was possibly inspired from a model by the Parisian cabinetmaker Charles Cressent. With its complex rococo shape, it demonstrates the "petit-feu" (low-fired) technique in all its glory. This technique meant that the range of colors could be considerably broadened.

An exceptional rococo work of art

This large decorative faience piece has a casing which contains the clock's movement (ordered from a local Strasbourg clockmaker) and a base in the form of a console. It is possibly based on a model by the cabinetmaker Charles Cressent, who often used a figure known as an 'espagnolette', a female bust in ronde-bosse (in the round as opposed to relief). However, credit must go to German manufacturers for the creation of this type of wall clock in ceramic. This particular example must have had pride of place in a home which was similarly rococo in style, since its undulating forms are in perfect harmony with the taste for curved lines that characterised rococo - a trend which remained fashionable until the second third of the eighteenth century. Scrolls, shells, and garlands of flowers form the basis of the ornamentation and echo one another, while the upper section, above the cockerel, is dominated by the figure of Time armed with its scythe.

An innovative workshop

The Hannong family ran their workshop in Strasbourg from 1721 to 1784, during which time it became renowned for its new techniques and the quality of its painted decoration. Thanks to the presence of German workers, it became the first workshop in the history of French ceramics to practice "petit-feu" firing, and the first in France to master the manufacture of hard porcelain. As well as whole services (and in particular plates and dishes), it produced many individual pieces like statuettes, pots-pourris, fountains, and clocks, in which great technical skill was involved. At least three types of clock are known to have been produced in the workshop. Others, on the same model as the one in the Louvre, can be seen at the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe in Hamburg and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

A new palette for use in decoration

The relief sections are highlighted by a palette of colors known as "petit-feu", or reflected colors. This technique was introduced into the Paul Hannong workshop around 1745. It was a new process that involved firing at a lower temperature, enabling a palette of colors to be produced which could not be obtained through firing at high temperature. Particularly characteristic is the introduction of pink, which was arrived at through mixing gold and pewter chloride (or "purple of Cassius"). The new range of colors is used here to emphasize sculpted shapes with soft blues, yellows, and greens, or to highlight edges with subtle touches of color from reds to browns, and to give greater realism to the figures through the use of mellow tones.


Migeon Gaston, Musée national du Louvre. Catalogue de la collection Isaac de Camondo, Paris, Musées nationaux, 1922, n 124, p. 22.

Ballot Marie-Juliette, Musée du Louvre, La Céramique française. Nevers, Rouen et les fabriques du XVIIe et du XVIIIe siècle, Paris, Éditions Albert Morancé, 1924, p. 32, pl. 43.

Ennes Pierre, Musée du Louvre, La Céramique du XVIIe au milieu du XIXe siècle, Paris, Editions de la Réunion des Musées nationaux, 1992, p. 18-19.

Louvre. Les collections, Paris, Editions de la Réunion des musées nationaux, 1993, n 270, p. 262.

Durand Jannic, Le Louvre : les objets d'art, Paris, Éditions Scala, Editions de la Réunion des Musées nationaux, 1995, p. 100.

Les collections du Louvre, Paris, Editions de la Réunion des Musées nationaux, 1999, p. 257.

Technical description

  • Paul Hannong factory

    Wall clock

    C. 1750-55


  • Movement by Hentschel
    Low-fired faience, enamel, gilded bronze

  • Former Baron Seillière collection; Comte Isaac de Camondo bequest, 1911 , 1911

    OA 6568

  • Decorative Arts

    Sully wing
    1st floor
    First cabinet of faience wares
    Room 607

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Additional information about the work

Hentschel movement, Strasbourg