A rare mid 19th Century French gilt and patinated bronze mystery clock Robert-Houdin
Lot 1
A rare mid 19th century French gilt and patinated bronze mystery clock Robert-Houdin
Sold for £17,500 (US$ 29,532) inc. premium
Auction Details
Lot Details
A rare mid 19th century French gilt and patinated bronze mystery clock
Robert-Houdin
The painted glass 4.25 inch Roman dial with single arrow hand within a gilt bezel, raised upon foliate scroll supports, mounted on the shaped base with applied figural and foliate mounts and square plinth base with shell and scroll mouldings, set on a giltwood base with conforming foliate decoration, the twin train drum movement with silk suspension and countwheel strike on a bell, the dial rotated by means of a lead-off arbour from a pinwheel engaging with the toothed edge of the dial. 37cm (14.5in) clock, 43cm (17in) overall.

Footnotes

  • Provenance:
    The Joseph M.Meraux Collection of Rare and Unusual Clocks, Sotheby's New York, Monday 28th June 1993, lot 257.

    An identical clock was sold at Bonhams New York, September 24th, 2012, lot 5268 with the following biographical information:

    Throughout Jean Eugène Robert-Houdin's life the magical and the mechanical were always deeply intertwined. We see this dichotomy best expressed in his famous stage acts such as "The Marvelous Orange Tree" and his unique horological designs.

    Born into a family of clockmakers in 1805, young Jean Eugène was a lover of the mechanical arts, especially automatons and soon began an apprenticeship under his cousin Jean Martin Robert. Soon after, Jean Eugène began to work for Noriet, a prominent clockmaker in Tours and it was here that he met the famous conjurer Giovanni Torrini. After moving to Paris to start a comedy company, Jean Eugène met his future wife, Josèphe Cécile Egaltine Houdin, a daughter of the famous clockmaker, Jacques-François Houdin, who had studied under the tutelage of the great Abraham Louis Breguet. After their marriage, Jean Eugène changed his last name to "Robert-Houdin," and with this change came a great rebirth for the artist whose career as both an illusionist, inventor and horologist soon soared to incredible heights.

    This rare clock is part of his second series of clocks made from the late 1830s. It is around this time that Robert-Houdin began to make mystery clocks with glass dials and their movements hidden in the base of the clock. As the movements for these clocks were invisible to the naked eye, onlookers were enchanted by the pieces, coming up with their own theories on how the hand moved. Robert-Houdin showcased his creations at the Exhibition of French Industry in 1839, for which he won a bronze medal. A similar clock is illustrated in Derek Robert's Mystery, Novelty & Fantasy Clocks on page 225.

    Throughout the 1840s and 50s, Robert-Houdin's celebrity grew as he performed private shows for Queen Victoria at Buckingham Palace and exhibited his inventions at the Universal Exposition of 1855. He passed away from pneumonia on June 13th, 1871, aged 65.

    Today, Robert-Houdin is considered the father of modern magic and a French national hero. Perhaps the most famous tribute to the master illusionist was another young showman's decision to change his name from Ehrich Weiss to Houdini.
Auction information

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  1. James Stratton
    Specialist - Clocks
    Bonhams
    Work
    101 New Bond Street
    London, United Kingdom W1S 1SR
    Work +44 207 468 8364
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  2. Charles Crisford
    Specialist - Clocks
    Bonhams
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    Work +44 20 7468 8371
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