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    Sale 2608

    Magnificent Clocks for the Imperial Chinese Court from the Nezu Museum

    27 May 2008, Hong Kong

  • Lot 1503

    A MAGNIFICENT IMPERIAL CHINESE ORMOLU, SILVER-PLATED, ENAMEL, PASTE-SET AND CARVED SOAPSTONE STRIKING, MUSICAL AND AUTOMATON 'ELEPHANT' CLOCK

    Price Realised  

    A MAGNIFICENT IMPERIAL CHINESE ORMOLU, SILVER-PLATED, ENAMEL, PASTE-SET AND CARVED SOAPSTONE STRIKING, MUSICAL AND AUTOMATON 'ELEPHANT' CLOCK
    GUANGZHOU WORKSHOPS. QIANLONG PERIOD (1736-1795), LATE 18TH CENTURY

    CASE: modelled in three tiers:
    The base section with a foliate cast plinth raised on scroll feet and set with multi-coloured paste gems, with a gadroon moulding above, decorated to all sides with red and green floral enamels and gold foils on a translucent blue basse-taille enamelled ground, the front set with the dial and flanked by multi-coloured paste-set and mirror-backed automaton catherine-wheels, the sides with pierced automaton panels painted with trees and flowers against a backdrop of automaton waterfalls (see below), the rear with three silk-backed pierced and engraved ormolu circular panels and applied with a paper inventory label 10;
    The middle section with a paste-set balustraded gallery with eight small vases to the angles, with panels of foil-backed green glass mounted with foliate appliqués set with further paste gems, its upper level with a further paste-set balustrade and naturalistically modelled repoussé silver platform, the four corners mounted with paste-set whirligigs;
    The upper section formed by a caparisoned soapstone elephant embellished with a paste inset foliate and floral-chased saddle, bridle and body-straps, supporting in turn a blue enamel baluster vase decorated with cloisonné enamel bands around the neck and base, the vase surmounted by a paste-set whirligig and fronted by a mirror-backed automaton paste-set flowerhead, its rear with a silk-backed pierced and engraved circular panel

    DIAL: with red paste-set hinged bezel and convex glass to replacement paper dial with Roman and Arabic chapters and ormolu arrow hands

    AUTOMATA: hourly, or by pulling a later cord to the underside of the case, the two catherine-wheels revolve, spiral-twist glass rods to the side panels turn to simulate falling water, the five whirligigs spin and the flowerhead to the front of the vase revolves; all while music plays

    CLOCK AND MUSICAL AUTOMATA MOVEMENT: with rectangular plates, triple chain fusees with knife-edge suspended verge escapement, hour strike on one bell and hourly music via pinned barrel on a nest of eight bells with twelve hammers, with four tunes selected by an arbor to the rear and with gearing to the automata above

    29 in. (73.5 cm.) high x 14¼ in. (36 cm.) wide x 10¼ in. (26 cm.) deep


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    COMPARATIVE LITERATURE:
    Liao Pin ed., Clocks and Watches of the Qing Dynasty, From the Collection in the Forbidden City, Beijing, 2002.

    The present clock is the opposing pair to an example sold Christie's Hong Kong, The Imperial Sale, Fine Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art, 7 July 2003, lot 589.

    Ornately embellished figures of elephants made from various media were found in halls and throne rooms throughout the Imperial palaces. As such, it is not surprising to find an elephant used as decoration on a clock. The imagery of an elephant supporting a vase on its back forms the auspicious rebus, Daping Jingxian or Daping Youxian, conveying the message of peace and harmony. The present soapstone elephant may be compared with a spinach-green jade one, also dating from the 18th Century, standing fours-quare on a French ormolu base, from the Estate of Empress Friedrich, Schloss Friedrichshof, included in the exhibition Chinese Jade, Spink London, 1998, lot 23; with a Qianlong-period celadon jade elephant richly caparisoned with a gilt and enamel-inset harness and saddle supporting a pagoda surmount on its back, offered Christie's Hong Kong , 29 April 2002, lot 532; and with enamel and gilt-bronze examples in the Yangxindian, the Hall of Mental Cultivation, where the Emperor received his officials, illustrated by Yu Zhuoyun, Palaces of the Forbidden City, 1982, pls.78-79.

    Elephant clocks in different forms and of English origin may also be seen in the Palace Museum in Beijing. For examples, see Liao Pin ed. op. cit., pp.120-121, pp.132-133 and pp.134-135.