NEW ORLEANS - Nov. 4, 2008 - A monumental, one-of-a-kind clock once featured at the 1867 and 1878 Paris exhibitions has been purchased by The Roosevelt New Orleans for display in the lobby of the hotel following its opening in late spring 2009 as a Waldorf=Astoria Collection hotel.
The hotel expects this antique conical masterpiece, the largest known to exist, to become the centerpiece for the restored grand lobby and a local landmark. The Waldorf=Astoria Collection is a member of the Hilton Family of Hotels. "This clock is really a gift from The Roosevelt New Orleans to the community," said general manager Tod Chambers. "It will signal to arriving visitors the luxury that marks all Waldorf=Astoria hotels. It also should serve as a gathering point for locals and could become the preferred romantic spot for wedding proposals. The clock must be wound by hand every eight days, so we even expect that to generate excitement." The timepiece was crafted by two of France's most important artisans of the late 19th century: renowned clock-maker E. Farcot and sculptor Albert Ernest Carrier de Belleuse. Its base, which features the clock's face and inner mechanical movements, is carved from solid onyx marble. Atop the base, a bronze sculpture depicting a robed female figure holds a scepter. Rotating soundlessly from the female subject's hand, the scepter provides consistent motion that adds to the clock's sense of grandeur and mystery. From its base to the top of the bronze figure, the imposing grand clock stands at nearly 10 feet tall. Farcot, the most well-known of French conical clock-makers, established himself in 1860 and mastered his craft over a period of 30 years, helping to popularize the unique pendulum escapement, the mechanism which controls the motion of the inner wheels. Carrier de Belleuse was one of the most important and renowned sculptors of the 19th century, as well as the teacher of Auguste Rodin. In 1857, his bronze sculptures grabbed the attention of Napoleon III, and he was commissioned for several important national works, including his most famous piece, Torchere, which still flanks the staircase of the Paris Opera House. European exhibitions of the second half of the 19th century were staged as a way to introduce to the public the finest examples of art and science of the day. This timepiece was featured in the Paris Exhibition of 1867 and displayed once more at the Paris Exhibition of 1878. The latter event was part of the third Paris World's Fair, held to celebrate the recovery of France after the crushing defeat of the 1870 Franco-Prussian War. Held on a much larger scale than any previous exhibition in the world, it covered more than 66 acres and attracted 13 million paying visitors. Every Waldorf=Astoria Collection hotel features a clock with significant historical and artistic merit. "We're pleased that the city of New Orleans will be the home to one of the grandest yet," Chambers said. The clock was purchased through M.S. Rau Antiques in New Orleans. In order to bear the Waldorf=Astoria Collection name, properties also must have architectural significance, unique décor and original artwork, historic or landmark status, and a reputation for product and service excellence. When The Roosevelt New Orleans reopens, it will offer 505 guest accommodations, of which 125 will be suites, and 50,000 square feet of meeting and event space, including the spacious 20,000-square-foot Roosevelt Ballroom and the 7,000-square-foot Waldorf=Astoria Ballroom, along with a total of 22 distinctive meeting and event rooms. The historic Roosevelt, first opened as the Grunewald in 1893, once again will feature the famous Blue Room and the Sazerac Bar. For more information, visit www.waldorfastoriacollection.com.