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A GEORGE III ORMOLU 'CABINET' TIMEPIECE TABLE CLOCK
A CABINET CLOCK ATTRIBUTED TO JAMES COX FROM THE RUSSIAN ESTATE OF MONREPOS THE PROPERTY OF A PRIVATE EUROPEAN COLLECTION
A GEORGE III ORMOLU 'CABINET' TIMEPIECE TABLE CLOCK

ATTRIBUTED TO JAMES COX, LONDON, CIRCA 1765

Details
A GEORGE III ORMOLU 'CABINET' TIMEPIECE TABLE CLOCK
ATTRIBUTED TO JAMES COX, LONDON, CIRCA 1765
CASE: the finial with bird 'trembler' above a flowering vase and inset with diamond, gem and paste set pearls, the drum case flanked by two draped figures above the bombé base with herm busts to the angles and raised on salamander feet, the agate panels associated DIAL: with later white enamel dial and blued steel hands MOVEMENT: fitted with a late 18th century French or Swiss watch movement; with red leather and brass bound green velvet lined travel case, probably early 19th century
12¾ in. (32.4 cm.) high; 4 3/8 in. (11.1 cm.) wide; 3½ in. (8.9 cm.) deep; the travel case - 14¾ in. (37.5 cm.) high
Provenance
Tsar Paul I of Russia (b.1754-1801) (by family tradition).
Thence gifted to Baron Ludwig Heinrich Nicolay, Monrepos, Vyborg, circa 1801 to 1820.
Thence by Nicolay family descent until 1920.
Count Nicolas von der Pahlen, Monrepos, Vyborg, 1920 - 1943.
Count Nicolas von der Pahlen, Helsinki, 1943-63.
Thence by descent to the present owner.

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Lot Essay

JAMES COX
James Cox (c.1723-1800) of 103 Shoe Lane, London, is most famous for the elaborate musical and automata clocks that he exported to China and other countries, some of which were displayed from 1772 to 1775 in his Spring Gardens Museum. [1] Some of these articles were very large, as can be seen by numerous clocks from the former Imperial Collection now in the Palace Museum Beijing, the great Peacock automaton in the Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg, and the Silver Swan automaton now in the Bowes Museum, Barnard Castle.

A gilt-metal and agate timepiece attributed to Cox of related design with comparable elongated neck and on salamander feet was sold Christie's London, 17 March 2011, lot 183 (£211,250). The Westminster Swan Clock, sold Christie's, London, 7 June 2007, lot 125 (£356,000) also has a similar cabinet form case.

COX'S CABINET PRODUCTION
Cox was not a clockmaker by trade but a goldsmith and jeweller, and many of the articles produced in his workshop and by his outworkers were on a smaller scale. His most typical products seem to have been necessaires (see for example one from the Dr. Anton Dreesmann Collection, sold Christie's, London, 11 April 2002, lot 930) and snuff boxes (such as an automaton snuff box sold Christie's, New York, 16 April 2004, lot 26), often incorporating watches and musical movements, which were probably sold to the domestic market as well as being exported. The necessaires typically took the form of a miniature cabinet or bureau made of agate panels held in rococo cage-work. Similar articles were made by other London jewellers at this period, like the Barbot family, but Cox was the leading exponent of this type. [2]
From the mid-1760s to the early 1770s, he produced many such cabinets in a number of different styles which can usually be recognised by certain distinctive features, even without the signature which is often, but not always found on the watch dials. These features include the form of the carcass, and the use of certain standard models for the principal mounts, like vases, putti, corner mounts and feet.

COMPARATIVE 'CABINET' CLOCKS
Cox's cage-work cabinets can be seen in a number of public and other collections, but the two following pieces are most closely related to the current example, having the same form and most of the same principal mounts, including the two putti supporting the clock and the small dragons forming the feet.
1. Palace Museum, Beijing
Signed on the dial for James Cox, London. The finial is an armillary sphere rather than a vase, and it lacks the bird which surmounts the jewelled flowers on the present piece. (Similar spring-mounted birds and butterflies survive on several other Cox pieces, including a cabinet necessaire in the Hermitage Museum and other pieces in Beijing.) The cabinet contains a musical movement. The keys are signed 'James Cox 1765.'
2. Walters Art Museum, Baltimore
Dial unsigned but the watch movement is signed James Hagger, a London watchmaker active earlier in the eighteenth century. It has the same vase finial as the present piece but lacks the jewelled bouquet and bird. There is a musical movement in the cabinet. This piece is said to have belonged to the Empress Alexandra, wife of Nicholas II of Russia, and inspired a clock by Faberge given by Nicholas and Alexandra to the dowager empress Maria Feodorovna, which is now in Hillwood, Washington DC.

DATING OF THE CLOCK
The keys dated 1765 for the Beijing clock, which appear to be original, suggest that these pieces were among the earliest small cabinets made by Cox, developed soon after he returned to business in 1763. They were followed by other cage-work cabinets in different styles, including some which were significantly larger. Examples of these can be seen in the Royal Collection, London, the Gilbert Collection (Victoria and Albert Museum), the Palace Museum, Beijing, the Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. The piece in the Hermitage Museum has original keys dated 1772, which is the latest date that can be firmly associated with the production of such cabinets.

It will be noted that the example in the Walters Museum, like the present piece, contains a watch that is not by Cox. There are also other cage-work articles of distinctive Cox-type which contain watches by other makers. Some of these movements could be later replacements, but there is another possible explanation. Cox was originally a wholesale jeweller, supplying working jewellers and retailers with gems, hardstones and other materials. When he first moved into the production of large musical and automata clocks for China and other export markets in 1763, he tried to continue with his wholesale trade and this could have included supplying some of his smaller articles for completion by others. When a growing need for money to finance his export trade forced him to give up much of this wholesale business, he held several stock sales in 1765, 1772 and 1773. These sales included a wide range of materials and completed articles such as 'rich snuff boxes, toys and watches, - and a large assortment of valuable effects, calculated for the Town [London] and foreign trade.' [3] Such sales, or others following his bankruptcy in 1778, might have led to some Cox pieces being completed by other jewellers. This might also explain why the agate panels on the current piece are not typical of Cox's other cage-work cabinets.

It is worth noting that such pieces rarely retain their carrying cases. Although the present case is of a later date, it presumably accounts for the survival of the jewelled bird on its delicate spring mount.

Notes:
1. For the history of Cox's enterprise, see Roger Smith, 'James Cox: A Revised Biography', The Burlington Magazine, June 2000, pp. 353-361; and the same author's article on James Cox in The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.
2. A number of Cox's cage-work articles, including the cabinet in the Walters Art Museum, are illustrated and discussed in Clare Le Corbeiller, 'James Cox: A Biographical Review', The Burlington Magazine, June 1970, pp. 350-358.
3. Daily Advertiser, 10 November 1772. Other sales were held by Christie's in July and December 1772.

We are grateful to Mr Roger Smith for his assistance with this catalogue note.

THE MONREPOS ESTATE
This clock has stood in the Monrepos estate from the early 19th to the mid-20th century. The Monrepos Park near Vyborg is situated on the Karelian Isthmus near the head of the Bay of Vyborg some eighty miles to the northwest of St. Petersburg. Over the course of history it has variously been in Sweden, Finland and Russia. The last of the Vyborg Castle commandants Petr Stupishin had his country estate on the site from about 1770 before ownership passed to the Vyborg governor Prince Friedrich I of Wurtemberg (1754-1816), a brother of Grand Duchess Maria Feodorovna (1759-1828), the second wife of future Emperor Paul I (1754-1801) and it was he that named the estate 'MonRepos'. The park was laid out on behest of its then owner, Baron Ludwig Heinrich von Nikolay (1737-1820), at the turn of the 19th century after Emperor Alexander I of Russia incorporated the town and its province into the newly-created Grand Duchy of Finland in 1812.

BARON LUDWIG HEINRICH VON NIKOLAY
The estate and its contents were bequeathed to Baron Ludwig Heinrich Nicolay following Tsar Paul's assassination in 1801. Nicolay was born in Strasbourg and graduated in law before moving to Paris where he became acquainted with Voltaire, Diderot, d'Alembert and other keys figures of the Age of Enlightenment. He was invited to Russia to be a teacher for the future Emperor Paul I in 1769. When Paul became emperor he promoted Nicolay to a member of the cabinet and President of the St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences.

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