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The most spectacular of these are traditionally staged by Rue St-Honoré dealers Kugel, who opted out of the Biennale in 1996 and have since attracted le tout Paris with lavish exhibitions ranging in subject from The Paris Panorama (1996) to Treasures of the Tsars (1998) and Renaissance Jewels (2000).

This year Alexis and Nicolas Kugel promise to combine opulence with scientific learning. Their exhibition, called Spheres, runs from September 18 to October 31, is challengingly subtitled The Art of Celestial Mechanics, and includes 50 globes and spheres – which the Kugels dub “prototype computers… at the crossroads of luxury and science” – made from silver, bronze, precious metals, ivory and rock crystal, and dating from the Roman era down to 1800, albeit with the 16th and 17th centuries to the fore.

The show is divided into five sections: terrestrial globes; celestial globes, including one of the three globes to have survived from Classical times (c.300 AD), based on the model created by Ptolemy; armillary spheres, including a 1594 sphere signed Erasmus Habermel of Prague, arguably the most famed maker of scientific instruments of the Renaissance; astronomical rings, with a universal equinoctial ring by John Rowley (c.1710); and moving spheres, led by a sphere by Pierre de Fobis (c.1540) considered to be the most sophisticated timepieces of the French Renaissance.

One of the most talked-about exhibits is sure to be Antide Janvier’s 6ft-tall mahogany-cased astronomical clock, made between 1789 and 1801. Described by the Kugels as “the most complex clock ever made”, this has not been shown in public since its star billing at the Exposition des Arts Industriels of 1802, and comes accompanied by a handwritten working guide by Janvier that runs to 134 pages.

The show has an equally erudite catalogue, available in both French and English, co-authored by horology specialist Jean-Claude Sabrier and Dr Koenraad van Cleempoel of the University of Louvain, an expert in 16th century scientific instruments.
J. Kugel is located at 279 rue St-Honoré, 75008 Paris; telephone +1 42 60 86 23, and their website is