CABINET CLOCKS BY JAMES COX
The principal component parts of the present clock appear throughout the oeuvre of James Cox. His clock cases and necessaires mostly display elements common to all, from boldly cast Rococo mounts, a variety of animals including lizards, elephants and lions to the feet and vase finials combined throughout with 'caged' specimen panels of polished agate. Of his known output today there are few of exactly the same design. Of the present model one other example, with whirligig rather than moonphase, is known in a private European collection (see White, p. 174, fig. 7.13). A cabinet clock with drum-shaped whirligig supported by figures may be seen in the Palace Museum collection, Beijing (see Treasures from the Forbidden City, afb. 26, p. 41). The top section of the present clock is of the same design as the upper section of a cabinet clock attributed to Cox sold anonymously Christie's, London, 17 May 2011, lot 183 (£211,250). The most elaborate Cox clock of related design to appear in recent years is probably the Westminster Swan Clock, the property of The Duke of Westminster, sold Christie's, London, 7 June 2007, lot 125 (£356,000). The cabinet form base appears relatively frequently albeit with a flat rather than domed top. Examples are to be found in the Gilbert Collection (Victoria and Albert Museum), London (White, op. cit, p. 168, fig. 7.5a) and the Palace Museum, Beijing (Lu Yangzhen op. cit , p. 112). The domed top with pierced sound fret is possibly to accommodate a larger musical movement as on the present example. Many of the surviving cabinets of this type have dated keys which are variously dated between 1765 and 1772 giving a good guide as to the period of production. The present key is dated 1766, the same year as James Christie founded his auction rooms.
SALES BY JAMES CHRISTIE
As a result of some subsidence in trade Cox established a private creditor's commission which in turn lead to the first sales at Christie's in July and December 1772. Another followed in March 1779 but the most significant was the final sale of February 1792, held in Christie's Great Room in Pall Mall. The catalogue listed some fifty-five pieces, albeit offered as one lot, the purchaser having to collect from Canton.
Cox (1723 - 1800) operated as a jeweller and goldsmith from his London premises at Shoe Lane, off Fleet Street. He was perhaps more in the style of a Continental marchand mercier as he also acted as agent for a number of Swiss watchmakers. His entrepreneurial nature led him to purchase the Chelsea Porcelain Factory from Nicholas Sprimont in 1769, only to sell it the following year to William Duesbury's Derby concern.
The St. James's Chronicle of 27-29 August 1772 reported that a shipment of 'English Toys' had been refused entry to China and had returned to London. This appears to have been the impetus behind Cox's opening of a Museum at Spring Gardens, Charing Cross, where the paying public could view his stock in trade. It was in the kunstkammer tradition and such private museums of curiosities were much in evidence at this period; such as Sir Ashton Lever's 'Leverian' (opened 1775) and later William Bullock's 'Egyptian Hall' (opened 1811). Cox's Museum ceased in 1775 when the contents were sold via a Public Lottery. Cox's son, John Henry, also oversaw the firm in a variety of guises operating from Canton and London but its success of the late 1760s and 1770s was its zenith with exports to China, India and Russia.
Clare Le Corbeiller, 'James Cox: A Biographical Review', The Burlington Magazine, June 1970, pp. 350-358.
Catherine Pagani 'The Clocks of James Cox', Apollo, January 1988, pp. 15-22.
Lu Yangzhen (chief editor) Timepieces Collected by the Qing Emperors in the Palace Museum, Hong Kong, 1995.
Derek Roberts, Mystery, Novelty and Fantasy Clocks, Atglen, 1999, pp. 165-177.
Roger Smith, 'James Cox: A Revised Biography', The Burlington Magazine, June 2000, pp. 353-361.
Wely/van Leeuwen/Lefeber-Morsman/Smith/Fuxiang/Xueling Treasures from the Forbidden City, Museum Speelklok, Utrecht, 2010.
Ian White English Clocks for the Eastern Markets, Ticehurst, 2012, pp. 165-175.