Saturday 11 October 2014

A Musical Automaton Clock

Once upon a time, I was ruled by my watch. I always had an eye on the time, always early, never just on time and certainly never late. Although I am still never late which is, of course, the height of bad manners, I have adopted my colonial gentleman's habit of no longer wearing it watch It is unexpectedly freeing and one is never too far from a timepiece nowadays although, it has to be said, few timepieces are quite as elaborate as the one that has caught my eye today.

Made in London in 1780, this magnificent automaton clock was created by master clockmaker, William Carpenter for a no doubt very wealthy client in China or India. It is crafted from brass, wood, glass and enamel and, with its English stamp of clock making quality, would have been quite a status symbol to a client in the east and would possibly have been part of an extensive collection, intended to show off the wealth, taste and buying power of its illustrious owner.

This clock is not just a timepiece, but an entertainment centre. On each quarter of the hour the tiny figures on the clock play one of six available tunes through bells concealed beneath their sculpted feet. However, that is only part of the entertainment and the clock face itself contains another treat for those lucky enough to see it in action. Depicted in the centre of the clock is a dazzling 18th century masque where dancers glide as the figures play their tuneful melody, creating a most dramatic and entertaining scene.

It is, I think, quite a work of art and would surely be the talking point of any parlour though it is a little big to wear on the wrist.


Mike Rendell said...

It reminds me of the magnificent and elaborate "timepieces" made by J J Merlin and the automata of James Cox - a reflection on the great reputation of clock-makers in England at that time - and on the wealth of their clients. Fascinating - thanks!

Catherine Curzon said...

Ah yes, I do love the automatons, they are absolutely enchanting and so much of the era. Thank you!

Unknown said...

Wonderful! Thanks for sharing this delightful thing. Is it available to view in a public collection?

Catherine Curzon said...

It can be viewed at the V&A and is well worth a visit!