The extraordinary collection of clocks comes from Italy’s pre-Unification royal palaces.
The administration of the House of Savoy outlined a specific typology and cultural environment as the stylistic parameters on the basis of which to select the objects that would decorate the royal state rooms. The collection is mainly made up of French objects made between the first quarter of the 18th Century and the first decade of the 19th Century.
The only exception is a guilt-bronze and tortoiseshell pendulum clock whose face bears the signature of Gilles Martinot, French court clockmaker since 1662, which belonged to the famous family of clockmakers who had been operative since the end of the 16th Century. The clock, which dates back to the middle of the 16th Century, is a precious example of the early Louis XIV style. The most significant items in the collection include the main style of clocks in vogue under the reign of Louis XV.
One of these is an artistically and mechanically extremely refined cartel clock from the Ducal Palace of Parma featuring the bronze figure of Flora crowning the clock face with delicate Vincennes porcelain flowers, on top of an enigmatic figure of a woman writing on a scroll held up by a little angel. The clockwork is by Charles Beauvillain, a Parisian master who was still active in 1778, but the author of the clock’s bronze decorations, unique in its kind, is not known. A cartel clock is a is a cartouche shaped clock designed to hang directly on a wall, rich in fire-gilt bronze decorations and, more infrequently, in porcelain decorations. Cartel clocks were widely diffused during the period of the Régence and especially under the reign of Louis XV.
The corpus of the collection comprises mantel clocks made by the most famous French wood carvers, bronze smiths and clockmakers in the mid-1700s. Every clock was the fruit of a team of skilled workers who, each one for their sector of reference, contributed to the creation of the object by applying essential stylistic, decorative and mechanical elements. An example of this is the mid-18th Century clock, displayed in the first State Room. It is signed on the back by the great French wood carver Jeanne-Pierre Latz, while the signature on the clock face is of Joannes Biesta. Among the mantel clocks, special note should be taken of the clock from the Royal Villa of Monza and present in the Quirinale Palace since 1919. The clock can be dated between 1735 and 1740 and recalls the works by the great wood carver Charles Cressent in his mature age.
The collection of clocks includes many pieces from the neo-classical period which are characterized by the simplification of forms and the presence of full-relief bronze figures. A good representation of the style is the clock derived from the model by Laurent Guiard and crafted by Berton at the beginning of the 19th Century and now displayed in the Hall of the Ladies.