• Christies auction house James Christie logo

    Sale 2608

    Magnificent Clocks for the Imperial Chinese Court from the Nezu Museum

    27 May 2008, Hong Kong

  • Lot 1511

    A FINE ENGLISH ORMOLU AND GUILLOCHÉ ENAMEL QUARTER-CHIMING, MUSICAL AND AUTOMATON 'SAILING SHIPS' CLOCK FOR THE CHINESE MARKET

    Price Realised  

    Estimate

    A FINE ENGLISH ORMOLU AND GUILLOCHÉ ENAMEL QUARTER-CHIMING, MUSICAL AND AUTOMATON 'SAILING SHIPS' CLOCK FOR THE CHINESE MARKET
    HENRY BORRELL, LONDON. GEORGE III PERIOD (1760-1820), LATE 18TH CENTURY

    CASE: decorated overall with panels of royal blue guilloché enamel embellished with delicate metal foils of gold and green to depict peacock feathers, and with golden fronds interlaced with multi-coloured garlands of flowers, the domed top surmounted by a later cresting with green and red paste-set automaton catherine wheel revolving against a mirrored plate and within an ormolu sunburst frame, the sides of the cresting applied with paste-set vine leaf mounts, the rear also with a mirror plate, this set with a foliate cast boss, the case angles with beaded and engraved projecting volute and foliate scroll mounts, the side panels with trellis mounts cast as trailing husks dividing panels of peacock feathers, with floral swag mounts to the four cornices and engraved swags to the panels of the platform above them, each corner mounted with a stiff-leaf clasped neo-classical vase, the rear door with a silk-backed openwork cast panel modelled with cornucopiae, mythical phoenixes and foliage, the front with conforming decorative panels and with paste-set music selection and hand-set knobs flanking the dial, further paste-set border to the automaton scene concealed by a sliding panel decorated in polychrome enamels with geometric patterns, on a plinth cast with a heavy berried laurel border, the rear applied with paper inventory label 2 and supported on four ormolu and enamel out-swept leaf cast feet with lion's head terminals

    DIAL: with paste-set bezel and convex glass to white enamel Roman and Arabic chapter ring with crossed minute track, delicate gilt-metal spade hour minute and seconds hands, adjusted by the left knob above

    AUTOMATA: hourly, or by depression of a button to the side of the case, the catherine-wheel at the top revolves and the shutter at the front rises, revealing a scene of two rows of painted metal sailing ships moving in two directions between two spiral-twist glass rods simulating the sea, a cam causing them also to rock naturalistically, with a glass panel behind them reverse painted with trees and a bridge, this laid before a series of spiral-twist glass rods revolving to simulate water falls; all while music plays

    MOVEMENT: the movement with rectangular plates secured by six pillars, rear-wound triple chain and fusees, pinwheel escapement mounted on the back plate, with good quality steel-suspended pendulum signed Borrell's Pendulum on a calibrated rating disc, secured with a holdfast, the music playing two tunes on seven bells (formerly eight) via fourteen hammers (formerly sixteen) and 2½ in. (6 cm.) diameter pinned barrel, the quarters and hours struck on two further bells positioned on the back plate, with button for repeating the hours to the right side of the case, the border-engraved backplate signed Henry Borrell/LONDON within a central cartouche; the music selected by the right knob above the dial and with strike/silent lever above XII
    29¼ in. (74 cm.) high x 14¾ in. (37.8 cm.) wide x 12 in. (30.5 cm.) deep


    Contact Client Service
    • info@christies.com

    • New York +1 212 636 2000

    • London +44 (0)20 7839 9060

    • Hong Kong +852 2760 1766

    • Shanghai +86 21 6355 1766

    COMPARATIVE LITERATURE:
    Derek Roberts, Mystery, Novelty and Fantasy Clocks, Atglen, 1999

    The present clock is the pair to one which was reputedly made for Lord Macartney for presentation by him to Emperor Qianlong in 1793. The 'Macartney' clock was later transferred to the Winter Palace in 1917, and sold in May 1923 for Frs. 40,000, and subsequently sold at Christie's Geneva, Fine Clocks and Watches, 13 May 1981, lot 32 and again at Christie's London, Important Clocks, 6 July 2001, lot 39. See also Roberts p.187, fig.15-26.
    This clock may therefore have been part of a group of clocks presented to Emperor Qianlong by Lord Macartney (1737-1806) on the occasion of his first mission to China in 1793.
    Henry Borrell was a clock and watchmaker with London addresses at Aldersgate Buildings in 1795 and Wilderness Row 1795-1840. Borrell was one of a number of English clockmakers towards the end of the 18th century whose work was strongly connected to the Export market. Frequently this was the lucrative Turkish market and many clocks and watches with 'Turkish' dials made by Borrell are known, such as an example sold at Christie's London, 13 December 2000, lot 83.

    The present clock differs from the clock sold in 2001 only in its automaton cresting, which has a different support and which does not have a catherine-wheel to the reverse; it has therefore presumably been altered. Interestingly, a clock by Borrell of related outline but less elaborate decoration in the Palace Museum Collection, Beijing. The Beijing example has an engraved ormolu case and lacks an automaton cresting but has a comparable shuttered automaton scene. See also Roberts p.188, fig.15-27.

    For another clock by Henry Borrell see lot 1515.