Robert-Houdin patinated bronze mystery clock
Lot 5268
A fine and rare patinated and gilt bronze mystery clock Jean Eugene Robert-Houdin, Paris, mid 19th Century
Sold for US$ 18,750 inc. premium
Lot Details
A fine and rare patinated and gilt bronze mystery clock
Jean Eugene Robert-Houdin, Paris, mid 19th Century
The transparent glass dial within a gilt bezel above the vase shaped patinated case, enhanced with an applied gilt putto supporting a pair of chimerae concealing the link to contrate wheels mounted within the case and on the back plate of the two train circular movement, signed Robert-Houdin, Paris, anchor escapement striking the hour and half hour on a bell by means of a count wheel, on a carved gilt wood base en suite, accompanied by a glass dome. height 13 1/2in (34.5cm)

Footnotes

  • Throughout Jean Eugène Robert-Oudin'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 horloger in Tours where on one fateful day, a very ill Jean Eugène 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 horloger, Jacques-François Houdin, who was once under the tutelage of A.L. 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 horologer soon soared to incredible heights.

    This rare and important clock is part of his second series of clocks made in 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 photographed in Derek Robert's Mystery, Novelty & Fantasy Clocks on page 225.

    Throughout the 1840s and 50s, Robert-Houdin's celebrity grew as he preformed 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 Ehrich Weiss's decision to change his name to Houdini.
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