Based on a drawing by Deverberie, this clock called L'Amérique reflects the vogue for exoticism that took hold of France in the late 18th and early 19th century.
L’Amérique clock in chased, patinated and gilded bronze decorated with a palm tree and a seated Native American huntress with glass eyes, mechanical movement with key winding, wire suspension, early 19th century, 47 x 37 x 15 cm (18,3 x 14,6 x 5,4 in).
Is this young woman impassive? She is more likely alert after piercing an alligator with her spear. This clock is based on an original model created by bronze-smith and chaser Jean-Simon Deverberie (1764-1824)—as the dial indicates—whose drawing, dated January 22, 1799, is in the Prints Department of the Bibliothèque nationale de France (French National Library).
The "noble savage" theme comes in about 30 models and nearly as many variations: young black sailors or porters pushing cotton bales or wheelbarrows, dark-skinned young hunters with a lioness and a turtle symbolizing Africa, or an alligator and a palm tree evoking America sitting on the movement or on a palanquin carried by children. One clock features an elegantly dressed “smoking negro" who seems to depict Toussaint Louverture, the former slave who led a revolt and established Haiti’s independence.
Europeans thrilled by tales about Bernardin de Saint-Pierre’s star-crossed lovers Paul and Virginia, Chateaubriand’s Atala and the beautiful Indian Chactas, and Daniel Defoe’s Adventures of Robinson Crusoe—images of paradise lost and humanity "in the state of nature" not yet perverted by the white conqueror. If they could not cross the seas, people bought panoramic wallpaper featuring Captain Cook’s travels or luxury items intended for a wealthy clientele. Craftsmen took aesthetic advantage of contrasting patinas: dark for the figures’ skin, golden for the accessories. The subject’s originality, state of conservation and fine chasing make the object stand out. Success has not waned since the late 1980s. A clock "with an Indian man and woman embracing" by Deverberie fetched FrF 1,055,000 (€249,912 in today’s value) in April 1990 (Ader-Picard-Tajan).