Double-Sided French Ormolu Portico Clock

  • This quarter-striking, double-sided French clock is among the most complex portico clocks ever made
  • It was crafted by the clockmaker Michel-Francois Nicolas Piolaine of Paris
  • Massive in size, it is also masterfully constructed a highly complicated double-sided design
  • The neoclassical-style clock case is just as impressive as its mechanics
  • Get complete item description here
Item No. 31-1220

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This quarter-striking, double-sided French clock is among the most complex portico clocks ever created. Crafted by the clockmaker Michel-Francois Nicolas Piolaine of Paris, the exceptional timepiece is massive in size and masterfully constructed with two nearly identical clocks on each side. To create just one clock of this complexity would have been an impressive feat, but this double-sided example represents a truly rare technical accomplishment.

The clock tells the time on matching dials with engraved silvered chapter rings and Breguet-style hands, including sweep second hands. The clock face also has a calendar function, with date apertures and 31-day calendar wheels. It operates thanks to a complex two-week movement that strikes the quarters and hours on two bells. A heavy, two-sided grid iron compensating pendulum is suspended at the center of the timepiece, ensuring the clock remains accurate regardless of changes in temperature.

In almost all other known double-sided clocks, the movement and pendulum are hidden. These other examples also lack calendar work or a sweep hand on the second dial. Just one additional sweep would have been difficult to achieve, but the decision to use a portico case and to have the same functions on both sides would have created serious challenges for Piolaine. The ingenious way that he moved the pendulum to the center of the case, created specialized motion work for the hands, and created a clock that was nearly identical front and back reveals him to be a truly exceptional horologist.

The clock case is just as impressive as its mechanics. Neoclassical in style, the ormolu case is adorned by Corinthian capitals, acanthus leaf moldings and flowing ribbons. Friezes depicting putti engaged in the study of the arts surmount each side of the timepiece. As a whole, it is a stunning example of 19th-century French decorative arts.

Movement marked "Piolaine a Paris, Novembre 1828, Rue St. Denis No. 398"

15" wide x 8 1/8" deep x 31" high
Double-Sided French Ormolu Portico Clock
Period: 19th Century
Origin: France
Type: Mantel Clocks
Depth: 8.13 Inches
Width: 15.0 Inches
Height: 31.0 Inches

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