The possible attribution of the case maker to the famous Dresden court goldsmith, Johann Melchior Dinglinger is based on a comparison with another clock recorded as being signed by him (Tardy, Clocks the World Over, Paris, fifth ed., Paris, 1985, Part Four, p.262-3). This clock was formerly in the Almas Gallery, Munich (K.Maurice, Die deutsche Räderuhr, Munich, 1976, vol. II, p. 97, no. 813 and fig. 813). However, the present whereabouts of the Almas Gallery clock is unknown and it was unexamined by Dr. Maurice who is thus unable to confirm the presence of the signature or attribution. Several works previously attributed to Dinglinger have been re-attributed to Johann Heinrich Köhler and this may possibly be the case in this instance.
The two clocks have many similarities - the overall form, the profusion of applied jewel ornament, applied oval enamel plaques, the bifurcated feet, the applied ornament on the flanking columns, the shaped rectangular plinths with drapery swags as 'skirts' at the front and the reverses engraved with architectural decoration. Although now lacking on the Almas Gallery clock, there are clear signs that its plinth too was originally applied at either end with decorative elements, presumably vases and, although impossible to tell from the photograph, it may well have been surmounted by applied figures and central bust. The length of the two clocks appears identical, the difference in height of 3.5 cm. being possibly explained by the removal of figures surmounting the Almas clock. Although the body of the Almas clock is described as gilt bronze and the engraving on its reverse is more elaborate and detailed it is possible that it too was silver-gilt and there is every indication that both clock cases were made in the same workshop.
Johann Melchior Dinglinger (1664-1731) was born near Ulm and by 1693 had settled in Dresden where he married, three years later, the daughter of the Court Goldsmith, Moritz Rachel. In 1698 he was appointed, in turn, Court Goldsmith by Augustus the Strong (1670-1733) for whom he was to work for the rest of his life. Virtually all Dinglinger's major productions were supplied to Augustus the Strong and remain in the Green Vaults, Dresden. The earliest of these, made in 1701, is the 'Golden Coffee-Service'- in reality a massive jewelled and enamelled silver-gilt baroque stand supporting ivory statuettes, enamelled gold cups, sugar-basins and a coffee-pot. The production of this group was followed in the following year by his most famous work 'The Grand Mogul's Birthday Party'- a vast architectural display covering a full square metre incorporating some 132 jewelled and enamelled figures of men and animals including camels and elephants with jewelled canopies and howdahs.
The well known portrait of Dinglinger by the French artist Antoine Pesne (1683-1757), circa 1721, now in the Hermitage, St. Petersburg, shows him holding the great 'Bath of Diana Cup', incorporating an ivory figure of the goddess by Balthasar Permoser which he completed in 1704. Among his other major works mention should be made of the 7½ foot high 'Obeliscus Augustalis', completed in 1722, the wonderful figure of the 'Moor with Emerald Tray' of around 1724 and the remarkable Egyptian fantasy, 'The Apis Altar' his last major work.
Johann Heinrich Köhler (1669-1736) was baptized in Langensalza in 1669 and became a citizen of Dresden in 1707. A jeweller and goldsmith, he was ordered in 1723 to supervise the restoration of 155 pieces from King Augustus the Strong's treasury, the Green Vaults. By 1725, he became Court Jeweller to Augustus the Strong and in 1728 his importance was underlined by the fact that he was put in charge of the transportation of the celebrated Amber Room given by Friedrich Wilhelm of Prussia to Augustus. In 1733 he was commissioned to supply the coronation insignia of Augustus the Strong's successor, King Augustus III as King of Poland.
A number of jewelled silver-gilt clocks by Köhler are recorded including two still in the Green Vaults. These comprise the superb St. Hubert clock of circa 1725 which, although even more elaborate, is of similar strong architectural form to the present lot and two others of markedly inferior quality (K. Maurice, op. cit., vol. 1, p.229, pl. X and D. Syndram and U. Weinhold, Barocke Perlfiguren aus dem Grünen Gewölbe, Dresden, 2000 pp. 82-83, cat. nos. 52 and 53 respectively).
In addition, attention should be drawn to the jewelled altar with the figure of St. Christopher which is recorded as having been supplied by Köhler for 1,000 thalers to the late King in 1733 (J. L. Sponsel, Das Grüne Gewölbe, vol. IV, Leipzig, 1932, p.148, fig. 54). While Sponsel speculates that this altarpiece may have been South German work retailed by Köhler, the shape of the plinth and feet as well as the overall concept are directly comparable with those of the present clock.
Christie's would like to thank Drs. Klaus Maurice, Martina Minning, Ernst-Ludwig Richter and Dirk Syndram for their help in cataloguing this lot.