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    Sale 2608

    Magnificent Clocks for the Imperial Chinese Court from the Nezu Museum

    27 May 2008, Hong Kong

  • Lot 1504


    Price Realised  



    CASE: modelled in three tiers;
    The base section of rectangular outline with canted angles, on a plinth raised on elaborate ormolu feet cast as openwork acanthus leaves and with pierced ormolu floral apron mounts between them, the front with automaton scene behind glass of painted figures, representing the concept of the 'Four Noble Professions': the scholar reading his book in a pavilion, the wood cutter holding an axe to a tree, the farmer ploughing the field with his hoe and the fisherman with his fishing net, all set in a gilt-metal repoussé landscape also mounted with naturalistically painted trees (see below), framed by red and green paste-set borders, flanked by panels of translucent blue baisse-taille enamel further detailed with gilt and mauve flowers growing delicate green-enamelled leaves, within ormolu beaded frames and further bordered by red paste gems, the sides similarly decorated but also with pale blue flowers and each inset with a glazed rectangular panel within ormolu frame, painted with European pastoral figures, the rear with a silk-backed pierced enamel panel in an interlaced design decorated with green stars;
    The middle section bordered by a pierced gallery and mounted to the four corners with ormolu baluster vases issuing automaton paste-set floral blooms, the section itself of conforming outline and decoration to the base below, the front enamel panel with gilt flowers and leaves and those to the sides with polychrome decoration;
    The upper section also with a pierced gallery, this surrounding a platform naturalistically modelled with rockwork, mounted with three carved wood figures with carved ivory heads, to the front an automaton model of Shoulao, dressed in a red painted and gilt-heightened flowing robe, holding an album in both hands, flanked on either side by attendants in similar robes, each tipping a gilt-metal double-gourd with tip attached to a funnel, emptying into spiralling chute which twists towards Shoulao's feet (see below), painted metal trees with gilt leaves behind them, the figures positioned around a naturalistically modelled mountain boulder modelled in repoussé sections, this inset with an automaton waterfall feature of spiral-twist glass rods and supporting the drum-shaped clock-case with silk-backed pierced blue enamel panel in an interlaced design, the drum in turn supporting an automaton painted metal and paste-set automaton floral bouquet topped by a single paste-set pineapple

    DIAL: with detachable bezel set with red, green and clear pastes in a scrolling flame design, convex glass to the white enamel dial with Roman hour chapters and Arabic quarters, crossed minute track, with gilt-metal spade hands and blued steel seconds hand

    AUTOMATA: hourly, or by depression of a knob to the right side of the mid section, numerous automata perform; in the base scene the scholar fans himself, the fisherman raises and lowers his basket into running water formed from revolving spiral-twist glass rods with swimming fish between them, the woodcutter chops with an axe and the farmer ploughs with his hoe; above, the four floral bouquets to the corners and the top bouquet, which is further mounted with 'trembling' flowerheads, all revolve; Shoulao opens his scroll to reveal a leaf inscribed with the characters Wanshou Wujian ('Longevity without an End'), whilst from the gourds of the figures beside him small balls issue and run down the chutes, disappearing and reappearing at intervals; the spiral-glass rods in the mountain revolve to simulate a waterfall; all this while music plays and then at the end Shoulao closes his album

    CLOCK MOVEMENT: with circular plates, twin chain and fusees wound from the rear, hand-set also from the back plate, with knife edge verge escapement and hour strike on bell, with hourly trip to;

    MUSICAL AUTOMATA MOVEMENT: housed in the base and wound from the rear, single chain and fusee, with pinned barrel playing on seven bells (formerly eight) with eight hammers, the selection of four tunes changed from the right side of the base, also driving the automata through a system of gears and two Archimedes screws which raise the automaton balls

    32¾ in. (83 cm.) high x 13¾ in. (35 cm.) wide x 11 in. (28 cm.) deep

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

    The concept of the 'Four Noble Professions' probably originated during the Han dynasty, and constitutes what was considered to be an idyllic life. A similar scene may be found in the base section of a Guangzhou clock in the Palace Museum, Beijing, and is dated to the 55th year of the Qianlong period or 1790 (see Liao Pin, op. cit., p.63).

    The Daoist figures featured in this clock are auspicious references in the wish for longevity and immortality, and Daoist themes are prevelent in many works of art of the Qing dynasty. Daoist images appear on a number of clocks in the Beijing Palace Museum, such as the static figure of Shoulao, the Star God of Longevity, which can be seen in the base section of a clock in the Palace Museum collection, op. cit., p. 61; and the Eight Immortals as moveable parts of the automaton in the base section of a clock, illustrated in Qinggong Zhongbiao Zhencang, 'Timepieces in the Collection of the Qing Palace', Forbidden City Press, 1995, p. 80. The last cited clock is further embellished with Daoist figures known as the three 'Star Gods': God of Prosperity, God of Happiness and God of Longevity, and was included the exhibition, Tributes from Guandong to the Qing Court, Art Gallery, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, 1987, illustrated by Yang Boda in the Catalogue, p. 99, no. 83.

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