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    Sale 2608

    Magnificent Clocks for the Imperial Chinese Court from the Nezu Museum

    27 May 2008, Hong Kong

  • Lot 1501


    Price Realised  



    CASE: the clock swinging within an ormolu double-gourd framework embellished with brilliant turquoise glass square-cut paste gems within an inner beaded border and an outer leafy border, the rear with matted decoration, the lower circular section accommodating the clock, suspended from above with a vertical bar, decorated with blue, red and white oval-cut paste gems, centred by a circular medallion, delicately enamelled with fine metal foils of gold, green and red to depict a basket of flowers on a royal blue guilloché enamel ground, encircled by a border of circular red paste gems, the neck of the double-gourd surmounted by a gilt-metal mount representing an upside-down bat, its intricate stylised wings outstretched below a pineapple finial, the whole structure raised on an elliptic-form ormolu mount of overlapping acanthus leaves, supported on a stepped oval-section marble base, its polished spreading waist neatly fitted with an openwork chased ormolu floral-scroll mount extending all around, above a stepped foot with beadwork gallery, set onto lappeted oval plinth on a stepped rectangular later zitan stand

    DIAL: with bezel of red, white, turquoise blue and yellow faceted paste gems and with ormolu beaded inner ring, the white enamel dial with crossed minute track, Roman hour chapters and Arabic quarters, pierced ormolu hour and minute hands and blued steel seconds hand

    MOVEMENT: with knife-edge suspension to the top of the frame, gilded circular plates joined by five gilded cylindrical pillars, twin going barrels with rear wind, the anchor escapement with steel escape wheel positioned on the back plate, quarter-striking on single bell with two hammers, the back plate with engraved border and inscribed with a 'nonsense' signature Lululi between floral sprigs; the rear of the case with two adjustable screws and a steel cross-bar made as if to secure the movement

    26¾ in. (68.5 cm.) high x 14 in. (35.5 cm.) wide x 9½ in. (24 cm.) deep, overall; 22¾ in. (57.5 cm.) high x 6½ in. (16.5 cm.) wide x 4 1/3 in. (11 cm.) deep, the clock

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    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.