Jean Antoine Lépine (1720-1814) (clockmaker)
Creation Date: 1790
Materials: Gilt and lacquered bronze, marble base
Royal Collection © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II
A combined gilt and lacquered bronze clock and musical box in the form of the bust of an African woman wearing a turban and aigrette and a draped tunic with a garland of flowers and foliage. Attached to her back is a bow and quiver of arrows. She is flanked by two gilt bronze putti.. The clock shows the time with the hours in Roman numerals in the left eye and the minutes in Arabic numerals in the right eye. The pupils slide back to reveal the time at ten minutes to the hour, and close at two minutes past the hour. They can be reopened by pulling the right earring.
The music box in the base (which contains a sixteen-pipe organ) is activated by pulling the right earring. Eight tunes are played, four popular French songs have been identified so far:
1 Chorus Que d’ attraits from act one of Christoph Willibald Gluck’s Tragedie-lyrique, lphigenie en Aulide, first played at the Paris Opera in 1774.
2. Malbroogh s’en va-t-en guerre. This song about the Duke of Marlborough was popular in the French court and was sung to the Dauphin by his wet nurse, Madame Poitrine.
3. Quand le bien-aime reviendra from the 1786 one act opera Nina, ou La folle par amour by Nicolas Dalayrac.
4. Escouto d’ Jeanetto from the 1789 one-act opera Les deux petits Savoyards also by Dalayac.
The whole is supported on a socle resting on the musical box of marble and gilt bronze. The break-front white marble base is fitted with gilt bronze plaques depicting scenes of hunting.