This apparently unique clock by the scientist/inventor John Joseph Merlin (1735-1803) is his only known longcase. The clean simple outline of the case is unlike English clocks of the period and owes more to Continental practice in construction and reflects Merlin's familiarity with pianos and harpsichords for which he was well known. The only other of similar design appears to be a contemporary longcase by Samuel Rehe in a private collection.
John Joseph Merlin was born in 1735, close to Maastricht. He arrived in London via Paris at the behest of the Conde de Fuentes, the Spanish ambassador. In 1760, age 25, he opened his 'Mechanical Museum' at Hanover Square. He also worked with James Cox. Their best known collaboration is the celebrated Silver Swan automata of 1773, now at the Bowes Museum. Merlin moved in fashionable circles and was acquainted with Johann Christian Bach, Thomas Gainsborough, Samuel Johnson, and Horace Walpole. He is known to have worked on a large barrel organ at Carlton House for the Princess of Wales. Gainsborough's portrait of Merlin, 1781, shows him leaning against a keyboard instrument with the maker's name MERLIN LONDINI FECIT. The majority of his surviving output are mathematical instruments, mechanical music and harpsichords, his only other known clock is the spherical skeleton clock, signed and dated 1776, now at Kenwood.