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    Sale 2608

    Magnificent Clocks for the Imperial Chinese Court from the Nezu Museum

    27 May 2008, Hong Kong

  • Lot 1502


    Price Realised  



    CASE: modelled in a three-tiered pagoda-form;
    The base section of rectangular outline and raised on a foliate cast plinth supported by four acanthus cast scroll feet with pierced floral apron mounts between, with an openwork paste-bordered oval to the front inset with automaton spiral-twisted green glass rods radiating from a paste-set circular medallion, flanked by gilt-metal openwork stylised floral appliqués, the sides similarly decorated with appliqués, the rear with a pierced silk-backed trellis work panel, the upper borders mounted with red, green and clear glass paste gems, with pierced gallery mounts above, the upper platform further embellished at each of its four corners with a neo-classical covered urn;
    The middle section applied with projecting corner mounts and its sides with appliqués matching those on the base below, fronted by a paste-bordered arch with two sliding silk-backed pierced lattice-work doors also framed by a polychrome-painted sheet metal mount cut in a foliate design, opening to reveal a finely painted wood male acrobat figure, suspending with both hands firmly grasped onto a vertical metal rod, his limbs pinned at the joints with metalwork to facilitate the swinging 'acrobatic' movements (see below), the interior rear wall and base backed by mirrors;
    The upper section of oval form and housing the clock, raised on four acanthus-cast scroll supports, surmounted by a covered urn finial (formerly with automaton feature) raised on a leafy scroll and flowerhead cast ormolu applique

    DIAL: with detachable bayonet-fixed convex glass fitted with an integral paste-set bezel, the white enamel dial with Roman hours and Arabic quarter chapters, with gilt-metal 'tear-drop' hour and minute hands and blued steel seconds hand, the hands adjusted by a faceted knob below the dial

    AUTOMATA: hourly, or at will by depression of a button to the rear platform of the case, the green spiral-twist glass rods and their central paste-set medallion revolve; then the lattice-work doors open and the polychrome-painted acrobat raises and lowers himself on the wire; all this while music plays; then the doors close again and the performance ends

    CLOCK MOVEMENT: the waisted plates with engraved borders and secured with engraved brackets to the upper back plate, the back cock also with engraved border, rear-wound twin chain and fusees with knife-edge verge escapement, quarter-striking on two nested bells with engraved bell stand, the gilded back plate centred by an engraved 'nonsense' signature, with hourly trip to:

    MUSICAL AUTOMATA MOVEMENT: housed in the base section, with tandem spring barrels driving a single chain fusee, wound from a single square to the rear, playing two tunes via pinned barrel on five bells with ten hammers

    35¼ in. (89.5 cm.) high x 15¾ in. (40 cm.) wide x 12¼ in. (31 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 acrobat automaton on this clock is a very unusual feature and we are not aware of other examples. Clocks with gates opening to reveal automata are known, however. In the Palace Museum in Beijing there are two examples, one where the gates open to show a pagoda and another where they reveal a dragon blowing a ball (see Liao Pin, op. cit., pp.68 and 71). Both of those clocks follow the tiered construction of the present clock, with the gates in the middle section. This clock differs from other examples also in its relatively restrained decoration. The use of paste gems is considerably less than on many Guangzhou clocks and there are no enamel panels, whilst the flat surfaces have been left un-embellished; in respect of the latter, contrast may be drawn with the highly elaborate raised ornamentation of one of the comparable Palace Museum clocks (Liao Pin, op. cit., p.71). The mixture of European neo-classical decorative forms such as campana vases with Chinese decorative forms is not unusual, although often such mounts are given a Chinese 'flavour' with the addition of further ornamentation such as paste gem flowers and originally the present clock would have had these.