Fashionable Watches

Pierre II Huaud, Gold and Enamel Pendant Watch

Pierre II Huaud, Gold and Enamel Pendant Watch


(classical music) – [Voiceover] I am Joseph Godla, chief conservator as the Frick Collection. I would like to introduce you to the current exhibition,
“Prescision and Splendor: “Clocks and Watches at
the Frick Collection,” curated by Charlotte
Vignon, associate curator of decorative arts. The exhibition will be on view until February 2nd, 2014. This pocket watch, also
called a pendant watch, was made in Switzerland around 1685. Small in scale and lightweight, the watch was suspended on a chain, now lost, that was attached on
one end to a waistcoat or a belt loop, and on the
other end, to this pendant ring, beautifully ornamented with
acanthus leaves and a rosette. Such watches were worn by men and women, until wristwatches grew in
popularity after World War I. At just over two inches
in diameter, this watch exemplifies the high level of skill required to produce detailed scenes on a minuscule scale, on every surface. The dial is a beautiful
example of 17th century Swiss watchmaking. The chapter ring is divided
into 12 black roman numerals with half-hour divisions set against a white enamel background. A colorful scene in the center, inspired by classical mythology, depicts a man wearing an orange tunic. He holds a staff in his right hand. A gray dog stands behind him. A woman, seen from behind, places her hand on his shoulder. Lightly covered with a
blue-and-white garment, she might be Venus, the Roman goddess of love and beauty,
prosperity, and victory. A white dove, symbol of love and peace, rests next to her. The reverse of the watch reveals another mythological scene, easily identified as the twilight of Venus,
after a painting made around 1640 by the French
artist Simon Vouet. It is unlikely that the
enameler who decorated the watch ever saw the canvas, now at the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh. But we can be certain that
he copied the engraving made in 1651 by Vouet’s
son-in-law, Michel Dorigny. This explains why the
scene on the watch is, like the engraving, a reverse image of the original painting. By copying a black-and-white image, the enameler was free to choose the colors for the scene he was painting, a vivid palette of magenta,
blue, violet, and green. To fit such a complex composition on a small, round surface, he disregarded several elements appearing in the painting and the engraving. Most notably, a large vase and white doves on the foreground, and a heavy drapery and landscape in the
background are missing. Inside the cover of the
watch is a bucolic scene that recalls the work of
17th century French painters Claude Lorrain and Henri Mauperche. In a verdant landscape with lush trees, two men and two women are resting near a lake, or a river. One woman, seated on the ground, is holding a child, while
a man is talking to her. Another man holds a spear, as if on guard. In the background, a village sheltered by mountains completes this scene, steeped in early morning
or late afternoon light. Around the watch case is a series of idyllic landscapes,
divided into four medallions. Each scene depicts buildings
in pastoral settings, possibly illustrating
areas around Lake Geneva. At the center of the band, below the clasp for the glass cover, the
enameler signed his piece, “P. Huaud Loine Pinxit.” “Pierre Huad, the eldest, painted this.” His father, also named Pierre Huaud, was a Protestant, who had fled France and established himself in Switzerland in the early 17th century. In Geneva, he created miniature paintings on watch cases, with
opaque colored enamels over a white enamel ground. With the help of his three sons, Pierre the Second, Jean-Pierre, and Anmi, the Huaud family created its own style that was celebrated throughout Europe. The perfection of their
bright and saturated enamels resembled miniature paintings on paper, parchment, or ivory. Their watch cases were fitted to English, French, and Swiss watch movements, as is the case for this watch, whose movement was made by Geneva-based clock maker Henry Arlaud, whose signature is engraved on the back plate. As was typical of the period, the movement of this watch is highly decorative. Circular plates of gilt
brass are connected by four finely twisted
pillars, and surmounted with foliate filigree
and gold and blue steel. Two conjoined birds playfully
protect the mechanism that features an 11-turn fusee, a cone-shaped spindle that equalizes the diminishing force of a coiled spring as it unwinds, and a verge escapement. This device controls the rate of the watch by advancing the gear train at
regular intervals, or ticks. For more accuracy, Arlaud
added a balance spring, invented only 10 years
earlier, around 1675. Attached to the balance
wheel, it controls the speed at which the wheels of the watch turn, and thus, the rate of
movement of the hands. Although this watch
included all of the latest horological inventions, it was still far from accurate and ran only 32 hours before it needed to be rewound. We welcome you to visit the exhibition, “Precision and Splendor:
Clocks and Watches “at The Frick Collection,”
in the Portico Gallery through February 2nd, 2014. Major funding for the exhibition
is provided by Breguet. Addtional support is generously provided by The Selz Foundation,
Peter and Gail Goltra, and the David Berg Foundation. For more information, please
visit our website, frick.org. (classical music)


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