The Empire period clock replicating a memorial to General Desaix, €80,000 (£69,565) in Beaussant-Lefèvre’s sale of the collection of Valéry Giscard d’Estaing and his widow Anne-Aymone.

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An Empire period mantel clock based on a memorial to one of Napoleon’s generals was a high flyer in the sale of the collection of former French president Valéry Giscard d’Estaing and his widow Anne-Aymone.

It came up for auction when the contents of their Parisian home were offered by Beaussant-Lefèvre (28% buyer’s premium) on December 13.

The clock replicates a fountain with a statue conceived by Charles Percier created in memory of General Antoine Desaix (1768-1800), who was killed at the battle of Marengo, which was inaugurated by Bonaparte on the place Dauphine in 1803 and is thought to be the first monument erected in Paris in honour of someone who was not a monarch.

The original fountain was dismantled in 1875 and transferred incomplete to the place Jean-Baptiste Laurent in Riom in 1906.

The clock, in gilt and patinated bronze standing 2ft 11in (89cm) high, has a movement and two dials set in the gilt bronze column which is decorated with allegorical bas-reliefs of the Nile and the Po, a trophy of arms and an inscription with the last words of Desaix: “Go and tell the first consul that I die with the regret of not having done enough for posterity.”

The base is engraved with battles in which the general distinguished himself and the water jets of the fountain are simulated by twisted rods of glass. The clock is signed Romain for Claude Romain, a Parisian clockmaker on the rue des fossés St Germain l’Auxerrois between 1804-06, then rue des Douze-portes from 1810-20. Estimated at €20,000-30,000, it was finally hammered down at €80,000 (£69,565).

The sale, which was held at the Drouot auction centre, realised a premium-inclusive total of just over €1.3m with 98% of the 183 lots changing hands.

Versailles steps in


Adelaide Labille Guiard’s portrait of the Duc de Choiseul pre-empted by the Château de Versailles at €190,000 (£165,215) in the Beaussant-Lefèvre d'Estaing sale.

The top lot of the day, again making a multiple of its €30,000-50,000 estimate, was a portrait of Etienne François de Choiseul-Beaupré Stainville, Duc de Choiseul (1719-85), by the French miniature and portrait painter Adelaide Labille Guiard (1749-1803).

The 2ft 4in x 22in (72 x 56cm) oil on canvas portrait of the soldier, diplomat and statesman was formerly in the collection of the Princess de Faucigny-Lucinge (née Choiseul-Gouffier) and sold from her collection in 1917 in Paris, making another appearance at auction in 1978.

At the Beaussant-Lefèvre sale last month it was bid to €190,000 (£165,215), at which point it was secured by right of pre-emption by the Château of Versailles for its collections.

£1 = €1.15