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Circa 1540-50, inscribed on the underside of the base 'PIERRE DE FORBIS'

Circa 1540-50, inscribed on the underside of the base 'PIERRE DE FORBIS'
THE STAND. The circular base plate is supported on six ball feet, and is decorated with arabesques at the centre and around the outer rim. Close to the centre are three holes, one stamped with an M [Minute?] and another with an S [Stunde?]. Above the base is a deep plinth with a stepped, moulded rim and stylised rock decoration. this supports three Corinthian columns with square-sectioned bases and capitals, enclosing a shaft of clockwork mechanism, now incomplete, within a cylindrical glass dust cover. The clockwork is lacking elements and is, therefore, defective. Above the plinths are three curved supports decorated with acanthus leaves and rams' horns, holding the circular, fretted base on which rest the rings containing the globes.

The terrestrial and celestial globes fit one inside the other, and both within a skeletal globe, and all three are contained within two meridian rings and a horizon ring. The meridian rings are engraved in degrees, divided every five, and numbered in tens. The horizon ring is divided into degrees at intervals of one degree, numbered in two sequences 0-90 in tens and 0-90 in fives. The horizon ring is also inscribed with 12 wind directions. At the four cardinal points there are extensions to the ring, three of which have been partially cut off. The one remaining extension is engraved with an S and the original wind name is Septentrio. Those directions that have been cut off have had a name added that is different from what is on the ring. The new names are as follows, and are set in Roman cartouches; the original names are in brackets: SEPTENTRIO; AQVILIO; HELLESPONTIVS; SVBSOLANVS (ORIENS); VVLTVRNVS; EVROAVSTER; AVSTER (MERIDIES); AVSTROAFRIC9; AFRICVS; FAVONIVS (OCCIDENS); CORVS; CIROIVS.

THE SKELETAL GLOBE. Within the meridian rings is a skeletal globe in two hemispheres, the lower of which has attached to it a triangular plate on which the clockwork mechanism would have been fitted. The medial ring is marked in hours.

THE CELESTIAL GLOBE. This divides into two hemispheres and is fretted, leaving solid constellation figures that are most delicately engraved. Each bears its name on a label. Also engraved are the names of stars, the total of named stars and constellations being sixty-eight. The equinoctial pole is marked, and a tube passes through it into the earth globe, which in turn is positioned on a rod in the southern hemisphere of the celestial globe.

THE TERRESTRIAL GLOBE. This globe is also in two halves, held by a pair of catches. The outlines of the continents are clearly displayed, and the oceans are stippled for contrast. The eastern seaboard of North America is very roughly delineated, and that continent merges directly into China. All names are in Latin. Again, the engraving is fine.
The horizontal ring 8 in. (20.2 cm.) diam.
The outer globe 6 in. (16.5 cm.) diam.
The celestial globe 6 in. (15.2 cm.) diam.
The terrestrial globe 3.1/8 in. (8 cm.) diam.
21 in. (55.8 cm.) high overall
Rothschild inv. no. AR2643.
1903 Theresianumgasse Inventory, p. 91, no. 215.
W. Edey, 'French Clocks in North American Collections', Exhibition Catalogue, New York, 1982, p.25 (described as a 'celestial sphere clock')
Vienna, Kunsthistorisches Museum, since 1948.

Lot Essay

Pierre de Fobis (1506-75)

This magnificent skeletonized Celestial and Terrestrial mechanical Double Globe is inscribed by Pierre De Fobis, one of the finest horlogers or clockmakers working during the earliest period of the spring-driven clock (i.e. before 1550). Probably the most ambitious and elaborate creation associated with de Fobis, in all perhaps twelve clocks by the latter survive, more than by any of his contemporaries and more than by any other maker before the second half of the seventeenth Century. For the first half of his career, de Fobis worked in Aix-en-Provence, probably moving to Lyon after 1535, although he is first recorded as working there in 1543. However, a table clock signed with de Fobis' initials and datable to the mid-1530s, which is now in a Private Collection in America, is stamped 'Paris', thus raising the possibility that de Fobis lived briefly in Paris before settling in Lyon.

For the most part, Fobis' movements are in the Gothic style, whilst the cases of all but one of the known clocks attributable to him are adorned with Renaissance ornament, the exception being a miniature medieval castle in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. As Edey has suggested (op.cit., p.26), the reason that the design of Fobis' cases changed so suddenly and dramatically from Gothic to Renaissance ornament may well be the result of the influence of Jean Martin. For Martin was instrumental in bringing Renaissance architecture and ornament from Italy to France through the publication of the works of Serlio, Vitruvius and Alberti, as well as the Hynerotomachia Poliphili.

In the design and ornament of the case, as well as the Roman cartouches employed to label the stars and constellations on the Celestial globe, the Rothschild case is stylistically closely associated with the workmanship of artisans in Northern Italy and, perhaps slightly more removed, Southern Germany. It seems likely, therefore, that the casework was made by an emigr craftsmen, whilst the Celestial and Terrestrial Globes were executed by another hand, probably trained in Northern Italy, whose engraving and craftmanship was of the highest quality.

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