The 18th century Judocus Mortier barrel organ and dulcimer combination compound musical clock, in important architectural case, signed on the side of the organ movement Fecit Mortier Gandavi 1785, the casework school of Abraham and David Roentgen, Belgium,
Lot 52W
The 18th century Judocus Mortier barrel organ and dulcimer combination compound musical clock, in important architectural case, signed on the side of the organ movement Fecit Mortier Gandavi 1785, the casework school of Abraham and David Roentgen, Belgium,
£60,000 - 80,000
US$ 100,000 - 140,000
Lot Details
The 18th century Judocus Mortier barrel organ and dulcimer combination compound musical clock, in important architectural case,
signed on the side of the organ movement Fecit Mortier Gandavi 1785, the casework school of Abraham and David Roentgen, Belgium,
The two-train clock movement striking on a bell, twin drive weights in gilt finish, large brass capsule lead-filled 77lbs. for the organ train, glass dial with Western Arabic numerals, slender chapter ring and Roman numerals towards the centre, finely tooled and pierced gilt hands, dial centre of two half-moons with the lower for drive train spindles, musical train beneath numeral III and the top half in wood with white matched painted finish, with hour-strike actuation on bell and automatic music start from six-air barrel, the two-rank organ having 36 wood and metal pipes, accompanied by 24-note dulcimer with each note having three tuned strings, internal damper bar manually actuated, manual tuning pitch aiding slide to the rear of the soundboard and two stops with no access from outside the case, all mounted on the solid brass movement bedplate of substantial construction, signature to right-hand side and obscured slightly by the 90-degree pump linkage from the bellows' operating crank [removed for the benefit of the photography shown here], the whole on cast brass tapering supports which rest upon the top trunk rails under the hood;
The case in very fine figured Cuban mahogany, the hood of cube profile with shaped moulded top, plain front and back supports and the extended circular dial aperture with radial veneers to frame and door, glazed to sides and top section of the front for movement viewing, highlight appliqués of polychrome painted spread-eagle on leafed gilt half-domed surmount, this theme following with animal head flanked by trailing ribbon swags to top of dial surmount and twin sphinxes with hairy paw feet and headdress all in repeated decoration, with these sphinxes loosely seated upon the trunk shoulders and removeable in order to provide access to side doors, double moulding set between brass veneer beading before the massive slight-tapering fluted columns, panel sides, the trunk door of narrow proportions opening to reveal busy and intricate inlaid three-dimensional cube pavement to floor in various stained fruitwoods, mirror panel behind reflecting the plain brass pendulum, silence/strike actuation via unusually long lever reached from within trunk, standing on painted faux marble plinth with signs underneath of now removed joists to hold wheels, the back with rear trunk door for dulcimer access and installation, hood also with rear door for the same, diamond shaped inset escutcheons of bone, original key opening all locks to the case, non-original keys for drive and musical trains present; Together with a report entitled The History & Restitution of the Compound Musical Clock, made in 1785, by Judocus Mortier of Ghent, listing all known history with this, a summery of construction, ordinance, assembly notes and full details of remaining restoration tasks for the purposes of hood height correction -


  • (See also front cover illustration)

    Direct references -
    On the History & Restitution of the Compound Musical Clock, Arthur W. J. G. Ord-Hume**;
    The Musical Clock, same author, 1995;
    Restoring Musical Boxes & Musical Clocks, same author, 1997.

    Further reading -
    Country Life, 9th March 1945;
    The Music Box, Vol. 8, No. 1, Spring issue 1977, pp.26-7;
    Kinzing & Roentgen Uhren aus Neuwied, D. Fabian, Internationale Akademie fur Kulturwissenschaft, Bad Neustadt, 1984.

    Purchased at a sale in June 1992, its previous location was rural Belgium, no doubt housed within a substantial property. Prior to this date, no exact location for it is known despite some very thorough research. It is therefore concluded that this until 1992, was made for and remained in a residence in Belgium.

    Only two examples of a compound musical clock with exactly the same movement properties are known to exist in the world – the other being in the world famous collection of the late Murtogh Guinness at the Morris Museum, USA.
    This Guinness clock mechanism is virtually identical in design and has a good plotted history from 1815 when it was found in The Netherlands following the Battle of Waterloo. The case of this example, however, is totally different.

    The case design comprises massive fluted columns, taking the eye directly towards the clock face, and joined with the somewhat delicate highlights of the Egyptian theme with double sphinxes and spread-eagle, makes as an impressive impact in visuals as it does in music.
    Note the very complex cubed three-dimensional inlaid pavement in the floor of the trunk which entices the viewer enough at a distance to get closer to inspect further. The use of the mirror plate at the back lifts the pendulum from the harsh columns and the hood, now reduced, still offers more than enough opportunity to see the proportions work together properly once more.

    At some point, as carefully and thoroughly explained in the paper written by A. W. J. G. Ord-Hume, the hood has undergone a 3-inch reduction, resulting in the bellows and longest wood pipes no longer clearing the hood ceiling. An answer has already been worked out and a written direction to a cabinet restorer is recorded. There must have been a jolly good reason for this size revision, but no written mention locates researchers towards the right answer.

    The original dulcimer was lost - most probably at about the time the hood was shortened - but as the clock in the Guinness collection is the same, the dulcimer was replicated using the correct age and type of timber to the precise 18th century specifications.

    An outstanding piece of mechanical music from the heart of the pneumatic golden age. Clocks like these, as seen and heard by Mozart, soon got himself and others composing specifically for pinned barrels. As a date-line, when this compound musical clock left J. Mortier's workshop in 1785, Mozart was 29 years old. It would be four years until George Washington become the first president of the United States of America.

    **[This restorer was associated with the restoration of the compound organ/dulcimer clock made by Roentgen and Kinzing, once the property of Marie Antoinette and now preserved in the Du Pont collection at the Nemours Mansion, Wilmington, Delaware. By coincidence, this instrument had also lost its dulcimer and an example in the Conservatoire des Arts et Metiers in Paris was used by Ord-Hume as the pattern for a replica.
    The piece is regularly demonstrated to museum visitors.]
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