James Cox; a fine ormolu, agate-set table clock with moonphase and musical base (currently inoperative) together with the original signed and dated key, 'Jas Cox 1766' (one finial loose and one missing)
Lot 18
An exceptional mid 18th century agate-panelled and silver-mounted musical ormolu table clock with moonphase indication. Sold with the original key, signed and dated key, James Cox, London, 1766. James Cox, London 2
Sold for £385,250 (US$ 629,104) inc. premium

Lot Details
An exceptional mid 18th century agate-panelled and silver-mounted musical ormolu table clock with moonphase indication. Sold with the original key, signed and dated key, James Cox, London, 1766. James Cox, London 2 An exceptional mid 18th century agate-panelled and silver-mounted musical ormolu table clock with moonphase indication. Sold with the original key, signed and dated key, James Cox, London, 1766. James Cox, London 2 An exceptional mid 18th century agate-panelled and silver-mounted musical ormolu table clock with moonphase indication. Sold with the original key, signed and dated key, James Cox, London, 1766. James Cox, London 2 An exceptional mid 18th century agate-panelled and silver-mounted musical ormolu table clock with moonphase indication. Sold with the original key, signed and dated key, James Cox, London, 1766. James Cox, London 2 James Cox; a fine ormolu, agate-set table clock with moonphase and musical base (currently inoperative) together with the original signed and dated key, 'Jas Cox 1766' (one finial loose and one missing) James Cox; a fine ormolu, agate-set table clock with moonphase and musical base (currently inoperative) together with the original signed and dated key, 'Jas Cox 1766' (one finial loose and one missing) James Cox; a fine ormolu, agate-set table clock with moonphase and musical base (currently inoperative) together with the original signed and dated key, 'Jas Cox 1766' (one finial loose and one missing) James Cox; a fine ormolu, agate-set table clock with moonphase and musical base (currently inoperative) together with the original signed and dated key, 'Jas Cox 1766' (one finial loose and one missing) James Cox; a fine ormolu, agate-set table clock with moonphase and musical base (currently inoperative) together with the original signed and dated key, 'Jas Cox 1766' (one finial loose and one missing) James Cox; a fine ormolu, agate-set table clock with moonphase and musical base (currently inoperative) together with the original signed and dated key, 'Jas Cox 1766' (one finial loose and one missing) James Cox; a fine ormolu, agate-set table clock with moonphase and musical base (currently inoperative) together with the original signed and dated key, 'Jas Cox 1766' (one finial loose and one missing) James Cox; a fine ormolu, agate-set table clock with moonphase and musical base (currently inoperative) together with the original signed and dated key, 'Jas Cox 1766' (one finial loose and one missing)
An exceptional mid 18th century agate-panelled and silver-mounted musical ormolu table clock with moonphase indication. Sold with the original key, signed and dated key, James Cox, London, 1766.
James Cox, London
Surmounted by the figure of a silver dragon on an urn over a pierced drum case carrying the signed enamel Roman and Arabic dial signed in two curved arcs, with steel beetle and poker hands, the mid-section of the case topped by four stone-set silver flowerheads and inlaid with boldly figured agate panels between wreathed columns supported by crouching salamanders, set to the front with an enamel moonphase dial and to the rear with a subsidiary gilt dial marked 1-60, on a pierced caddy section further enriched with agate panels, the lowermost part of the case formed as a mid 18th century commode with symmetrically matched panels of agate within ormolu borders, the each corner mounted with boldly cast volutes on mask-headed scrolls, supported on four cast feet modelled as decorated elephants, complete with head dresses.
Sold together with the original signed and dated key. 36.5cms (14.25ins) high. (2)

Footnotes

  • Provenance:
    'The Palace Collections of Egypt, The Highly Important Collection of Works of Art in Precious Materials', Sotheby & Co, New Bond Street, 10th March 1954-Wednesday 17th March 1954, lot number 617.
    With Desoutter, 4 Hanover Street, London, specialist in the works of Breguet, advertised for sale, Antiques Collector July 1956.
    With C & H Wartski, London, exhibited at the CINOA International Art Treasures Exhibition, Victoria and Albert Museum, 1962.
    Vendors family ownership since the 1960s.


    James Cox (c.1723-1800) of 103 Shoe Lane, London, is most famous today for the elaborate musical clocks and automata that he produced and exported to China and other countries in the second half of the eighteenth century, some of which were exhibited in his Spring Gardens Museum from 1772 to 1775. [1] Many of his products were very large as can be seen from numerous clocks in the Palace Museum, Beijing, and the life-size Peacock automaton in the Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg and Silver Swan automaton in the Bowes Museum, Barnard Castle.
    However, Cox himself was not a clockmaker by trade but a goldsmith and jeweller, producing many smaller articles in his own Shoe Lane workshop or through other craftsmen working to his designs. The most characteristic of these smaller pieces were necessaires, snuffboxes and caskets made of agate panels held in gold or gilt-metal cage-work. These luxury articles, which often incorporated musical movements and watches, were sometimes used as elements in his larger compositions: there were several examples in his Spring Gardens Museum. [2] As well as being exported, such pieces were probably sold in the domestic market and related articles were made by other London jewellers at this period, like the Barbot family. However, the number of pieces by Cox that survive suggests that he was the main producer of articles in this style. [3]

    A distinctive feature of Cox's work was the way in which he often brought together complete components to create larger and more impressive objects. This modular approach to design and manufacture was not just employed in his larger pieces but can also be seen in smaller articles like necessaires and small musical clocks. Such pieces can have several elements, with the lowest stage taking the form of a miniature cabinet or commode of rather Continental appearance. The feet of the cabinet often rest on exotic animals such as elephants, rhinoceri, lions, turtles and small dragons or lizards. Each stage might also be ornamented at the corners with vases containing jewelled flowers or butterflies, with another vase serving as the finial.
    To judge from the signed and dated keys which a few pieces, including the current one, have fortunately retained, these articles were produced between 1765 and 1772. There are a number of different types, but even without a signature on the clock dial they can usually be recognised as Cox's work by certain distinctive features, including the use of standard models for the principal gilt-metal mounts like corner-pieces, vases and animal-supports. These mounts can be found on more than one type of cabinet or commode and some occur in different sizes.

    Cox's cage-work cabinets can be seen today in a number of major collections, including the Royal Collection, London, the Gilbert Collection (Victoria and Albert Museum), the Palace Museum, Beijing, the Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.
    The following examples relate particularly to the present clock.

    1. A clock in a private collection almost identical to the current piece at each stage. The only significant differences are that the circular aperture in the middle stage shows a series of rotating rosettes rather than a moon-phase dial; and the clock dial has twin winding apertures. Since the two pieces share the same patterning in the agate panels, they may well have been made at the same time.

    2. A necessaire in the Gilbert Collection, Victoria & Albert Museum, London. has a very similar commode for the bottom stage, which also contains a musical movement, but has different upper stages.

    3. Several other examples using this same bottom section but with different upper stages were in the former Chinese Imperial Collection and can now be seen in the Palace Museum and the Summer Palace in Beijing.

    4. Cox clocks with commode bases which are larger but use the same corner mounts include a vase clock in the Palace Museum, Beijing and a lion clock in the Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg which was formerly in the Stroganoff Collection.

    It is clear from the preceding account that articles of this type were being exported to both China and Russia in the later eighteenth century. [4] Unfortunately, the history of the current piece is unknown before the twentieth century, when it belonged to King Farouk of Egypt who assembled an enormous collection of highly decorative European watches, snuff boxes and related items. These 'Works of Art in Precious Materials' from the Palace Collections of Egypt were sold by Sotheby's in March 1954, the current piece being lot 617, 13 March, illustrated plate 35. In 1962, it was exhibited by the London dealer C. and H. Wartski in an exhibition staged by the Confédération Internationale des Négociants en Oeuvres d'Art, (CINOA) at the Victoria & Albert Museum, London. (No. 224 and plate 138 in the CINOA catalogue.)

    Notes
    1. For the history of Cox's enterprise, see Roger Smith, 'James Cox: A Revised Biography', The Burlington Magazine, June 2000, pp. 353-361; and the same author's article on James Cox in the Oxford DNB.
    2. For example, see [James Cox], A Descriptive Inventory (etc), 1774, items 17-18 and 55-56.
    3. A number of Cox's cage-work articles are illustrated and discussed in Clare Le Corbeiller, 'James Cox: A Biographical Review', The Burlington Magazine, June 1970, pp. 350-358.
    4. For an account of the export trade in clocks and related luxury articles to China, see Roger Smith, 'The Sing-Song Trade: exporting clocks to China in the eighteenth century', Antiquarian Horology, March 2008, pp. 629-658.

Saleroom notices

  • We are grateful to Roger Smith for his help in compiling this footnote.
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