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    Sale 2608

    Magnificent Clocks for the Imperial Chinese Court from the Nezu Museum

    27 May 2008, Hong Kong

  • Lot 1510


    Price Realised  



    CASE: the rectangular ormolu platform base raised on elaborate foliate feet, centred with a panel embellished with gilt-metal mount of a stylised sun-flower, flanked on either side with flowers borne on thin stems growing bladed leaves, the sides each with similar floral bloom mount, the angles with gilded volute mounts, the upper edges lined with an openwork pelmet-form terrace, the four corners joined to pillars, surrounding a mythical three-legged toad with paste-inset eyes and seated on rockwork head, the toad's raised head modelled with twisting ruyi clouds emerging from its wide mouth, surrounded by four evenly spaced splayed leaves forming the elaborate mount supporting the clock, the dial bezel encircled by a paste-set 'sunburst', arranged in radiating rows of rectangular transparent glass, alternating with rows of vibrant green and pomegranate-pink circular-cut paste gems, surmounted by an ormolu phoenix with outstretched wings raised on a bracket stand of acanthus leaves

    DIAL: white enamel with Roman hours and Arabic quarter chapters, pierced gilt-metal main hands and replaced blued steel seconds hand

    MOVEMENT: with red silk-backed pierced and engraved ormolu rear cover, substantial circular plates secured to the case with brackets to top and bottom, the gilded back plate engraved elaborately with leafy sprigs and flowerheads, within a line and scroll engraved border, twin fusees wound from the rear, hand-set also to the rear, duplex escapement with blued steel segmental decorative weights positioned on the back plate, quarter-striking on two replaced large steel gongs rising on a steel bar from an ormolu mount at the rear of the case, with two hammers projecting through the movement cover

    23½ in. (59.5 cm.) high x 13½ in. (34.5 cm.) wide x 8¼ in. (21.5 cm.) deep

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    Tardy, French Clocks The World Over Part II: From Louis XVI style to Louis XVIII-Charles X Period, Paris, 1981
    Liao Pin ed., Clocks and Watches of the Qing Dynasty, From the Collection in the Forbidden City, Beijing, 2002

    The sunburst design of this clock is extremely unusual and may owe its origins in part to Louis XVI models, such as double-faced swinging sunburst clocks (see Tardy, p.79) and possibly also to the elaborate bezels of some English clocks exported to China. In the Palace Museum, Beijing there are paste-set bezels in an approximate sunburst design on two such clocks (see Liao Pin, pp.134-137) and which may have influenced the Chinese makers of this clock.

    It is interesting to note the subtle Chinese symbolism in the overall decorative design. A point of note is the unusual inclusion of a gilt-metal three-legged toad below the dial. This imagery is normally associated with the immortal Liu Hai, a god of wealth, and as such the toad itself is also recognised as a symbol of wealth. In addition it has lunar associations as it is reputed to live on the moon; an ancient name for the Moon Palace is the Palace of the Toad. Another feature is the phoenix standing above the 'sunburst' decorated dial, which may be interpreted as the sun. It forms the aupicious phrase Danfeng Chaoyang, 'The red phoenix under the bright warm sun'. In Chinese mythology the phoenix only appears in the time of peace and prosperity; its appearance augurs the emergence of an able ruler or the arrival of a great man.