Since the wooden interior of the gilt bronze case has been cut away to provide space for the swing of a pendulum, scholars know that this case originally held a clock movement. These alterations date to the 1930s, when the Duveen brothers, antiques dealers, converted it into a barometer to form a pair with a similar clock, now also in the Museum's collection.
The cabinetmaker and sculptor Charles Cressent made the case. In the corner of the Getty Museum's pastel painting by Maurice-Quentin de la Tour from around 1740 sits a similar model in the form of a clock standing on a cabinet.
One of the most important ébénistes of the 1700s, Cressent originally trained as a sculptor and liked to design and make his own gilt bronze mounts. This practice, which broke strict guild regulations, brought large fines and forced him to hold several sales of his works. He had a roster of wealthy patrons but his passion for collecting paintings kept him continually in debt. Cressent himself wrote a detailed description of a model for this barometer in an auction catalogue from 1757.