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Bernard de Leye Gallery

Collection: 1750 — Inkstand

1750 - Paris (France)
François-Thomas Germain


This amazing inkstand in the shape of a boat lays on a base composed of two parts. A magnificient gilt-bronze frame in the shape of foliages and scrolls laying on four scrolls feet support a mirror that figures the water on wich the boat-inkstand is sailing and shows at the same time all hidden details of this astouding piece.
The silver boat shows a very refined, detailed and skilled work. Nothing is missing : the anchor, the dolphin-shaped helm, the barrel on wich are standing a pipe and a ewer, the deck with three removable covered cups decorated with beautiful shell knobs that were used for ink and sand, the fishing net in wich small fishes and shells seem to be caught. The central mast is chased with shanked flutes. It is topped by a flag and attached to the rim of the boat by silver ropes made as real ones with extremely thin silver strings. A silk sail unfolds from the horizontal mast.
At the head of the boat stands a beautiful watch in its open-work silver case decorated with a rose and scrolls. The watch itself is made of gilt-brass with a white enamelled dial. Roman numbers stand for the hours and arabic ones stand for the minutes. They are painted with balck enamel. The clockwork is brass made. It is signed « F. Rabby, Paris ».
Two small silver candlesticks are standing on a silver branch.
The hole piece is decorated with silver branches and foliages with delicate porcelain flower manufactured in Vincennes.

Marks description

~ Mark of the city of Paris ‘Charge’ – A crowned A with a palm and laurel- Fermier Général (tax collector) Julien Berthe (1750-1756)
~ Date mark ‘Jurande’ – letter M – standing for the years 1752/1753
~ Control mark ‘Décharge’ – a shell – Fermiers Généraux (tax collectors) Eloy Brichard and Etienne Somfoye (1st of October 1756-1st of October 1762)
~ Master silversmith François-Thomas Germain

Movement description

Clockwork signed F.Rabby Paris
François Rabby was a silvermaster in 1717.
His workshop, called «La Tête Noire» was located Place Dauphine in Paris.


François-Thomas Germain

Born in 1726, he becomes Master Silversmith in Paris in 1748 when succeeding his father Thomas Germain. At the age of 22, he inherits in the same year the title of Orfèvre et Sculpteur du Roi.
Residing in the Galeries du Louvre, he orders the stamping of two marks
a crowned fleur-de-lis, two dots, FTG
a crowned fleur-de-lis, two dots,
FTG, a fleece.
In 1750, he is at the head of his father’s shop, one of the most prestigious in Paris which already used to supply the high society of Europe. The first decade of François-Thomas Germain’s career are characterized by substantial orders e.g. from the Garde-meuble, Présents du Roi and the courts of Portugal and Russia. For Elizabeth of Russia, he executes the service de Paris of which some pieces are today in the collections of the Hermitage Museum. However the year 1760 is the beginning of his financial problems ending by his declared bankruptcy in 1765 for more than a million. This disaster is viewed as the greatest scandal of the 18th century. Nevertheless Louis XV is opposed to the abrogation of Germain’s title of sculpteur-orfèvre du Roi and allows him to continue his activities.
Germain’s studio was the most important of his time both due to its reputation and the number of his workers. Its organisation heralds the creation of the major studios of the 19th century including that of Biennais who employed up to 600 people or Jean-Baptiste Claude Odiot who was surrounded by draughtsmen and sculptors. François-Thomas Germain died in Paris in 1791, deprived and forgotten by all.

Material data

Gilt-bronze base
Lenght : 39,8 cm – Width : 25 cm – Total heigth : 41 cm
Length : 32 cm – Height : 37 cm


Born in 1701, in a family of parlamentarians established in Paris since the beginning of the 16th century. His career is quite remarkable and he is successively appointed….
Conseiller au Parlement de Paris (1721). Maître des Requêtes (1728). Président du Grand Conseil (1738). Intendant de Hainaut (1743). Président du bureau du commerce (1744). Membre Honoraire de l’Académie des Sciences (1746). Contrôleur Général des Finances (1745-1754).Ministre d’Etat (1749). Garde des sceaux (1750-1757).Secrétaire d’Etat à la Marine (1754-1757)
Protégé of Marquise de Pompadour, he becomes Contrôleur général des Finances in 1745.
With the support of Louis XV, Machault is appointed Minister of Justice in 1750. In 1754, he is compelled to leave his function of Contrôleur general and is appointed Secrétaire général de la Marine (Secretary General to the Navy). During that period, Jean-Baptiste de Machault d’Arnouville furnishes at considerable expenses his castle at Arnouville-lès-Gonnesse which he had started to build in 1750.
According to the testimonies collected during that period, his castle was particularly imposing.
He was disgraced in 1757 by Madame de Pompadour who had protected him during his whole career. He retreats from the political arena and settles in his castle d’Arnouville, whose construction had been interrupted. In 1789, he resides in the castle of Thoiry owned by marriage by his son Charles Henri Louis. He dies in 1794, shortly after being put in prison.
His son, Charles Henri Louis de Machault d’Arnouville (1747-1830) marries in 1773 Angélique de Baussan, heiress of the castle of Thoiry. Their two children are Eugène de Machault d’Arnouville (1782-1867), last male descendant of that branch, and Angélique de Machault d’Arnouville (1774-1822). The ownership of the castle of Thoiry passes by marriage to the Voguë family and later to the family La Panouse, in the 19th century.

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