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.