Liao Pin ed., Clocks and Watches of the Qing Dynasty, From the Collection in the Forbidden City, Beijing, 2002
Tardy, French Clocks The World Over Part II: From Louis XVI style to Louis XVIII-Charles X Period, Paris, 1981
The present clock derives its form from the lyre clocks of late Louis XVI period France, examples of which may be seen in Tardy (pp.80-83). In the Palace Museum in Beijing a European style lyre clock, with swinging dial, may be seen atop an automaton elephant (see Liao Pin, pp.134-135). With the the present clock, the French lyre form translates to a distinctly Chinese double gourd design, with its potent symbolism of fertility and good fortune. Again, French lyre clocks are typically topped by sunburst, mask or foliate mounts the Chinese interpretation employs a stylized 'upside down bat' motif and has a specific symbolic meaning, signifying that 'blessings have arrived'. Interestingly, whilst the case design owes much to a French influence, the dial retains features found on English clocks of the 1790s, notably the crossed minute track and simple pierced hands.
Unlike their French counterparts, Chinese double-gourd clocks are extremely rare. Another was exhibited privately in London several years ago. That clock closely resembled the present example but also had applied gilt-metal foliate mounts to either side of the gourd, whilst the central the medallion was modelled in relief with a Chinese Shou, 'Longevity', symbol rather than being enamelled.
Compare with a double-gourd shaped gilt-bronze and paste-embellished musical clock, signed Jno. Brockbank No. 19 and inlaid with two characters Daji, 'Great Good Fortune', sold at Christie's Hong Kong, 29 May 2007, lot 1392. As with the present example, the cited clock was most likely to have belonged to a group of clocks ordered by one of the Guangdong officials and rendered as tribute to Emperor Qianlong. For a discussion of the Guangzhou workshops, cf. Yang Boda, Tribute from Guangdong to the Qing Court, pp. 63-64, where the author mentioned that the Qing emperors had "lived and worked under the chimes of their clocks". A gilt-bronze double-gourd clock raised on a galleried platform is seen in situ in the Hall of Great Supremacy, see Yu Zhuoyun, Palaces of the Forbidden City, London, 1982, p. 107.
See p. xxx for an illustrated example of a double-gourd clock in the Palace Museum collection, Beijing.