Hébé et l’aigle de Jupiter – Hebe and the eagle

Last updated on June 18, 2021

Au sommet de mon cartel Julien Le Roy (voir article à ce sujet sur ce site), figure une sculpture bronze dorée représentant la déesse Hébé assise sur Jupiter (Zeus), représenté sous forme d’aigle.

At the very top of my Julien Le Roy cartel clock (see article on this subject on this site), is a gilded bronze sculpture representing the goddess Hebe sitting on Jupiter (or Zeus), who is represented in the form of an eagle.

Hebe was the goddess of youth, and guardian of the fountain of youth. She served nectar at the table of the gods, and eventually married Herakles (Hercules).

This theme of Hebe and Jupiter as an eagle was occasionally used in French bronze clocks in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Its presence in this cartel clock by Julien Le Roy from 1717 is probably one of the first instances of this theme in French horology, dating from the Regency period.

Occasionally, horological literature on cartel clocks refers to this sculptural theme as “Danae with the eagle”, but this is incorrect, as Danae was another figure of Greek mythology, who had interacted with Zeus but not in his form as an eagle. Two other women who were in fact carried away by Zeus as an eagle are Thaleia, and Aegina.

This fine bronze sculptural element appears on a few cartel clocks from that period that I have seen in the literature. It is uncertain at this time who the sculptor, founder, chaser, or gilder were, perhaps they were associated with Boulle. The one on my clock is in very nice condition, no broken fingers or other parts. The chasing is of good quality, at least in the more visible sections. It is fairly heavy bronze, and as was the practice at the time, different parts were cast separately (the two arms for instance) and then soldered on and smoothed by the chaser before gilding.

The maker of the cartel clock (Julien Le Roy in this case) either selected the decorative elements he wanted to adorn the clock with, or those could have selected by the client who had commissioned the clock. Different options were probably available, and some could have come from different founders-chasers-gilders. In this case, someone (either the clockmaker or the client) selected the young goddess of youth for the top of the clock, and the bronze figure of the goddess Keto (of the sea monsters) for the front of the clock, below the dial. It is hard to determine what the significance of this selection could have been, along with the other decorative bronzes that adorn the fine clock.

This theme of the young female goddess and the eagle was quite popular and used often in art, and sculpture in particular.

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