Chronology : 1680-1699 1770-1779
1570 The Complications of Orpheus
2018 SOLD for $ 275K including premium
A group of twelve gilt metal horizontal astronomical table clocks have many characteristics in common including a relief frieze on the theme of Orpheus and Eurydice charming animals from Europe and Africa. They appear as a hybrid between clock and astrolabe for offering a universal measurement of time.
The clock itself has three hands. One of them makes a 24 hours rotation indicated as a double 12 when the marks are accompanied by numerals. The other two hands run the solar minutes and the lunar time. Depending the specimens, it strikes hours or quarters.
In the following of the astrolabes, a planisphere engraved with reference lines enables to determine the unequal hour which is the division into twelve intervals of the time between sunrise and sunset, varying according to the rhythm of the seasons and to the longitude. Other indications apply to planets and zodiac, not missing also the annual calendar, the day of the week and the Italian time. The bottom plate is removable to access the mechanism.
A 23 cm diameter specimen, well preserved although several components have been modified or changed, was sold for £ 260K including premium by Christie's on July 5, 2002. The catalog explained that its attribution to South Germany around 1570 was linked to the Nuremberg engravings that served as models for Orpheus' images and to a mark punched on two other pieces of the group that also appears on a clock of another type at Stuttgart Castle.
The best preserved Orpheus clock surfaced in 2007. It is estimated $ 250K for sale by Bonhams in New York on December 6, lot 68. Its dimensions are almost identical to the specimen above. Its two bells ring hours and quarters.
#SaleUpdate: A highly important South German quarter striking astronomical table #clock from the group known as "The Orpheus Clocks",— Bonhams (@bonhams1793) December 6, 2018
circa 1570, sold for $275,000 inc. premium in today's Art of Time sale in New York https://t.co/0BaBwiBosb pic.twitter.com/RLhadHL5Yp
The Art of Time sale in NY on Dec. 6 is led by a highly important astronomical table #clock, from the group known as "The Orpheus Clocks". While no two of the clocks are identical, all share a finely cast frieze depicting the legend of Orpheus & Euridice. https://t.co/i3lSVadOE1 pic.twitter.com/PMie6RLXLN— Bonhams (@bonhams1793) November 21, 2018
1663-1670 Pioneers of the Pendulum Clock
2013 SOLD 460 K£ including premium
The craftsmen of London managed very quickly to operate specialized workshops. It is generally accepted that the first of these pioneers was Ahasuerus Fromanteel. Two types are available: the table clock and the longcase clock.
On July 9 at Bonhams in London, a table clock signed by Samuel Knibb in London is estimated £ 200K.
Only five clocks are known by this master, and no anonymous instrument can be attributed to him because of the similarity of his production with that of Fromanteel. The clock for sale was made after his arrival in London in 1663 and before 1670 as no later activity of Samuel Knibb has been identified.
Joseph Knibb, who was a younger cousin of Samuel, was his apprentice before 1663. He will be the most outstanding clockmaker in London at the end of his century and his production is abundant.
George Daniels, who was the best connoisseur of antique clocks, appreciated the work of Joseph Knibb. At the auction of his collection at Sotheby's on November 6, 2012, two table clocks were sold respectively £ 1.27 million and 340K including premium.
In the same sale, a longcase clock made about 1685 also by Joseph Knibb had not been sold, probably due to a rebuild of the case. It is listed again, now with a reasonable estimate of £ 40K, at Sotheby's in London on July 10. Here is the link to the catalog.
POST SALE COMMENTS
Excellent result at Bonhams, £ 460K including premium. The mysterious Samuel Knibb enters the short list of major clockmakers.
The clock from the Daniels collection was sold for £ 84K including premium by Sotheby's.
I invite you to play the video shared by Bonhams on YouTube to introduce the clock of Samuel Knibb:
1665-1667 The Clockmaker of Oxford
2014 SOLD 287 K£ including premium
The invention in 1656 of the pendulum clock by Huygens immediately interested the craftsmen of London. It takes the simple form of a cubic box or of a tall furniture in two bodies named longcase clock that may include a longer pendulum.
In the very beginning, it is difficult to distinguish a particular style distinguishing the production of a specific workshop. Fortunately many of them were signed : Samuel Knibb, or Ahasuerus or Johannes Fromanteel, or Edward East. A table clock signed by Samuel Knibb was sold for £ 460K including premium by Bonhams on July 9, 2013.
Samuel Knibb started his business in Newport Pagnell, where he apprenticed his cousin Joseph Knibb. The movings of Samuel to London and of Joseph to Oxford seem simultaneous, in 1662 or 1663.
On March 11 at Donnington Priory in Berkshire, a grandfather clock 1.90m high signed by Joseph Knibb in Oxford is estimated £ 80K by Dreweatts & Bloomsbury, lot 143 in the catalog shared here on LiveAuctioneers platform. This piece directly influenced by the clocks of London was made between 1665 and 1667.
Joseph Knibb moved in his turn to London in 1670, certainly to succeed Samuel. Joseph then left his Oxford business to his younger brother John. The pieces made by Joseph in London are the masterpieces of old English clocks. Aluxurious table clock from the Daniels collection was sold for £ 1.27 million including premium by Sotheby's on November 6, 2012.
POST SALE COMMENT
This very early pendulum clock was sold for £ 287K including premium, much over its estimate.
1677 The Grandfather Escapement
2012 SOLD 1.27 M£ including premium
Not only it was one of the most useful of all inventions but also, by raising the skills of the mechanical craftsmen, it was certainly a key to the start of the industrial revolution.
Joseph Knibb, who worked in London since 1670, was one of those masters of the time. Skilled clockmaker, he was a precursor and perhaps one of the inventors of the anchor escapement, a basic accessory designed to ensure the isochrony of the pendulum as a function of the deflection angle.
Back to the beginnings of his career. The horological collection of the watchmaker George Daniels, which will be dispersed on November 6 in London by Sotheby's, includes two clocks made by Joseph Knibb, in ebony, with Roman numerals on the dial.
The most luxurious, dated 1677, has the shape already usual in his time of the table clock, a cube with a handle. It is estimated £ 600K.
The other, made around 1685, is a longcase clock, or in a more familiar wording, a grandfather clock. This type of model is an early easy approach to improve the accuracy thanks to the lengthening of the pendulum. It is estimated £ 200K.
Here is already the link to the announcement of the sale.
Here are the links to the catalogue for the table clock and for the longcase clock.
POST SALE COMMENT
Clocks made by Joseph Knibb were the stars of the George Daniels collection of ancient clocks.
The table clock discussed above was sold £ 1.27 million, and another less luxurious example reached £ 340K. The grandfather clock has not been sold.
Among other makers, let us mention at £ 300K a table clock made around 1697 by Thomas Tompion.
These results include premium.
1693 A Little Clock for Queen Mary
2019 SOLD for £ 1.93M including premium
Aware of the quality of his production, Tompion numbered his instruments, an exceptional practice in his time for a manufactured product. He mixes in a single serialization list the table clocks and the long case clocks. His clocks have a long autonomy. His grande sonnerie pieces offer a repetition of quarters over a long duration.
From 1692 or 1693 Tompion improves the elegance of his design with his Phase Two which includes the cushion dome, the thistle bud handle, the bellflower keyhole and the operation of the mechanism from the front face.
The master seems more interested in standardization than in miniaturization. Nevertheless Number 215 appears as the first of a small series of Phase Two table clocks with a total height of 28 cm including the raised handle. It was sold for £ 170K including premium by Bonhams on December 13, 2011.
Number 222, made especially for Queen Mary II in 1693 and known as the Q Clock, is the smallest clock ever made by Tompion with an ebony case. It is 20 cm high overall with the handle raised. It offers the quarter repetition and an autonomy of eight days.
Re-assembled in 1949 by a collector with its original movement, the Q Clock was sold for £ 440K including premium by Christie's on June 30, 1993. It will be sold by Bonhams in London on June 19, lot 103. The May 20 press release is announcing for this silver mounted royal clock an estimate in excess of £ 2M. A modern replica is joined to the lot.
Please watch the video shared by the auction house.
We are delighted to announce that one of the most valuable clocks ever to appear at auction, The King William & Queen Mary Royal Tompion, will star in The Clive Collection of Exceptional Clocks in London on 19 June.https://t.co/6ufWtyi4Ax pic.twitter.com/ROoThd69zu— Bonhams (@bonhams1793) May 20, 2019
1698 A Longcase Clock by Thomas Tompion
2009 SOLD 240 K£ including premium
Thomas Tompion is considered the most important English watchmaker. Wikipedia tells us that he manufactured about 650 clocks and 5500 watches. His workshop was in London. He was one of very few watchmakers who were admitted to the Royal Society, and was buried in Westminster Abbey.
All of his clocks were numbered. The serial number 301 comes up for sale at Christie's in London on June 4. It is 2.27 m high with a walnut case and dates from around 1698 (then William and Mary). It has an autonomy of one month.
The estimate is 200 K £. In its catalog, Christie's provides three higher results for pieces of similar models. The most expensive, sold in September 2004 for 520 K £ including expenses, had a royal provenance. A visit to their archives allowed me to view a regulator sold 620 K £ including fees in July 2003.
POST SALE COMMENT
The clock remained at its lower estimate. It was sold 240 K £ including premium. I had seen in the catalog that this serial number 301 was a bit (a very little bit) simplified in its decor compared to usual models.
1740 Tall case clock by Peter Stretch in Philadelphia
2004 SOLD for $ 1.7M including premium by Sotheby's
1750 Pendule au Rhinocéros by Saint-Germain
2020 SOLD for € 490K including premium by Sotheby's
narrated post sale in 2020
Jean-Joseph follows the fashion of the reign of Louis XV for luxury and rococo. He specializes in figurative bronzes that equip clocks for which his father makes the cases. The themes are often exotic : rhinoceros, lion, elephant, Indian.
The rhino was at that time a somewhat mysterious animal. Before 1747 Saint-Germain took the image by Dürer as a model. A young female named Clara taken from India in 1741 makes a triumphal tour of Europe which will last until 1758. Saint-Germain takes as a second model for his rhinoceros a Meissen porcelain made during the stay of Clara in Dresden.
Clara spends five months in Paris in 1749 after being received at Versailles by the king himself. Artists, including Oudry, paint her portrait. The third series of rhinos by Saint-Germain is based on these direct observations. For the sake of realism, the animal is shown trumpeting, her head raised.
On June 16, 2020, Sotheby's sold for € 490K including premium over a lower estimate of € 150K a rhinoceros clock of the third type, signed by Saint-Germain, lot 10.
The rhinoceros in patinated bronze carries the clock which is surmounted by a figure of young Indian in gilded bronze. The animal is mounted on a rocaille base in gilded bronze placed on a case which contains a chime activated by the clock. The mechanisms are signed by Gille l'Ainé, received master clockmaker in 1746. The total height is 83 cm.
Here are two results for clocks of very similar construction attributed to Saint-Germain with an earlier version of the rhino : £ 230K including premium by Christie's on July 6, 2006, lot 151 ; £ 300K including premium by Sotheby's on July 3, 2019, lot 16.
1755 The Workshops of Newport
2018 SOLD for $ 610K including premium
In October 2004 Sotheby's sold for $ 1.7M including premium a clock made around 1740 by Peter Stretch in Philadelphia. The catalog does not indicate any complication but insists on the magnificence of its 2.73 m high mahogany case.
At the same time the families of cabinetmakers Townsend and Goddard have their workshops in the Quaker district of Newport. They develop for their high quality furniture the Block and Shell decoration which is certainly also imitated by their local competitors and becomes the signature feature of the furniture from that city.
The clockmaker William Claggett was established near Townsend and Goddard. He died in 1749. James Wady who was his apprentice and son-in-law continued his clock models for a few years and died in 1759. Thomas Claggett, son of William, in turn rented a shop in 1755 to make similar clocks.
Wady's activity as a shop owner appears as brief, perhaps only the time to settle the estate of William Claggett who was deemed a bad payer. Towards the end of his career Wady adds the phases of the moon above the main dial and improves the readability of the sub-dial of seconds and of his signature, allowing now to classify in four chronological groups his nine surviving clocks.
A 2.35 m high clock from the third group with a mahogany block and shell case attributed to one of the Townsends was sold for $ 670K including premium by Christie's in January 2002.
A clock of similar size and design but from the last group was sold for $ 440K including premium by Christie's in New York on January 21, 2000. It is estimated beyond $ 200K in the same auction room on January 19, lot 159. It includes a very rare complication which was favored in Newport, the time of the tides.
The Hunter-Dunn family Chippendale plum-pudding mahogany block-and-shell tall-case clock, dial signed by James Wady (d. 1759), Newport, 1750-59, is estimated to sell for $200,000/300,000 at @ChristiesInc https://t.co/3BpgTNgq7R #antiques #Americana #antique #auction #clocks pic.twitter.com/xpzO1f6NhG— Maine Antique Digest (@AntiqueDigest) December 27, 2017
Wishing everyone celebrating a very Happy New Year as clocks strike midnight across the globe tonight. This Hunter-Dunn tall-case clock is a highlight of our Important American Furniture, Folk Art and Silver sale in #NewYork. Pictured in full here: https://t.co/GnyExfteEd pic.twitter.com/C1swrR6ZXT— Christie's (@ChristiesInc) December 31, 2017
1766 A Flat Desk with its Clock of Cartonnier
2015 SOLD for € 2.22M including premium
All accessories are designed for writing: drawers and pull in the desk, black leathered top and the very tall serre papier now named cartonnier or filing cabinet which is surmounted by a clock.
The desks stamped by Montigny are rare. One of them is estimated € 2M for sale by Christie's in Paris on November 4, lot 510. It retained its matching cartonnier with its original clock as they were described in the inventory of the estate of a former intendant of Louis XVI in 1795. Two period écritoires are joined to complete the equipment.
The desk is adorned with a leafy garland in antiquisant style 'à la grecque' which was fashionable in the early 1760s. It certainly dates from the very beginning of the accession to the maîtrise by Montigny in 1766. The sets of furniture of this period in which desk, cabinet and clock were never separated are of extreme rarity.
I invite you to watch the video shared by Christie's.
1766 Exuberance of George III Timepieces
2013 SOLD 480 K£ including premium
The clockmakers of London were once the best in the world. In the mid-eighteenth century, James Cox was one of those who maintained this tradition. The Swiss will soon become their main competitors thanks to the progress started by Jaquet-Droz.
The best clocks made by Cox are works of art, with the heavy figuration so appreciated at that time including volutes, animals and masks. A musical clock is estimated £ 150K, for sale by Christie's in London on July 4. Here is the link to the catalog.
With an overall height of 37 cm, this piece dated 1766 is a three-body composition mounted on four high legs terminating on full elephants. It is in gilt bronze adorned with agate panels on the lower chest.
The main dial, at the top, is still surmounted by a winged dragon in silver perched on an urn. The intermediate level offers two dials, one of the main face for the phases of the moon, and the other on the back. The piece retains its original key.
The Qianlong emperor had a predilection for European clocks, and Cox is one of the leading English watchmakers who have exported to China, probably later in his career.
POST SALE COMMENT
Sold for £ 480K including premium, the clock realized a good gain in less than seven months.
1770-1773 French Rotating Spheres
2015 SOLD for £ 600K including premium
The Enlightenment fosters the scientific precision. In addition to the technical achievement already in combination with multiple complications, very competent astronomers such as Lalande and Cassini adjust the astronomical tables and mathematicians like Camus position their gears and wheels.
At the end of the reign of Louis XIV, Jean Pigeon realizes a moving sphere clock on the principle of Copernicus and publishes his invention in 1714. The astronomical clock by Passemant is presented in 1749 at the Royal Academy of Sciences and is used to set the official time of the kingdom. It is kept at Versailles.
The Prince of Conti had little skill in politics but became the greatest collector of his time. Resolutely dismissing the academies and corporations, he commissioned around 1770 the most complex astronomical clock of his time. The clockmaking is made by Mabille and the spheres by Baffert, certainly before 1773 which is the date of bankruptcy of the latter.
The clock displays all the possible elements for measuring time and a beautiful dial for the position of the moon. Extended to the outer planets, the planetary includes six rotating spheres with the highest scientific accuracy. It also marks ecliptic, solstices, equinoxes and zodiac.
Janvier, who had this piece in hand after the Révolution, noted that it is better than Passemant's clock by the accuracy of its annual rotation because it incorporates the calculations published by Camus in 1749.
The planetary clock of the Prince de Conti is estimated £ 600K for sale by Christie's in London on July 9, lot 9.