A fine and rare early 19th century patinated and gilt bronze mounted marble mantel timepiece Vulliamy, London, No.407
Lot 103
A fine and rare early 19th century patinated and gilt bronze mounted marble mantel timepiece Vulliamy, London, No.407
Sold for £32,450 (US$ 53,224) inc. premium

Lot Details
A fine and rare early 19th century patinated and gilt bronze mounted marble mantel timepiece
Vulliamy, London, No.407
The fluted white marble drum case surmounted by a reeded urn finial and flanked either side by a recumbent sphinx, each mounted on black marble plinth inset with a gilt plaque enriched with stylised foliate motifs, raised on stepped base inset with a matted bronze panel with reeded border, the replacement (see footnote) 3 3/8th inch enamel Roman dial with an bezel cast as Ouroboros, gilt numerals, scroll hands and regulation arbour at XII, the signed and numbered single fusee movement with rise and fall regulation, numbered pendulum with steel rod, the circular plates united by four tapered pillars and supporting the characteristic back cock.
Length 42cm (16.5in) by 25cm (9.75in)

Footnotes

  • This is one of a number of clocks with sphinxes in the Egyptian taste that were designed and made by Benjamin Vulliamy (1747-1811), Clockmaker to King George III, around 1800. [Note 1] They were made to three different designs over a relatively short period, at a time when Napoleon's campaign in Egypt in 1798-1801 leading to Nelson's victory at the Nile in 1798, and the subsequent great survey and publication of Egyptian antiquities by Dominique Vivant Denon, had made the symbols of Ancient Egypt highly fashionable across Europe. [Note 2]

    Vulliamy's first design is ornamented with two sphinxes, an eagle and a large Wedgwood medallion: there is an example dating from 1799 in the British Museum (No. 308). [Note 3] His third design, which is in a more highly developed Egyptian style based directly on the illustrations in Denon's book, uses four sphinxes of a different and smaller model, as well as other ornamental mounts taken from Denon. An example is No. 438 now in the Victoria and Albert Museum which was made in 1807-08. [Note 4]

    Vulliamy No. 407 is an example of Vulliamy's second design and was completed in 1806. It uses the same model of sphinx as the first type, but with some modifications, including a tail. In this form, the sphinxes replace the more familiar pair of lions which Vulliamy used on many of his ornamental clocks at this period, in a style recalling the imperial grandeur of Rome, rather than the "Greek" neo-classicism of his earlier ornamental clocks with figures in biscuit porcelain.

    Because of the fortunate survival of some of Vulliamy's business records, we know that he used his usual network of independent craftsmen to make this clock. They included Houle for casting and chasing the two sphinxes at a cost of £4, and the clockmaker Jackson for the movement for which he charged £5-10s. The largest individual item was the marble case, which was supplied by Day for £7-7s. The clock was sold to Miss Bull on 28 March 1806 for the considerable sum of 50 guineas (£52-10s). [Note 5] Five years later, on 11 December 1811, it was returned to Vulliamy to be cleaned and fitted with a "new enamel dial with gold hours" - presumably the one it still has. The customer was a Mrs. Gordon, who was perhaps the former Miss Bull or a relative. [Note 6]

    Notes
    1. For Vulliamy's personal involvement in the design of his ornamental clocks, see R. Smith, ' "It is not in the power of porcelain to be commanded": some problems in the design and manufacture of Vulliamy's sculptural clocks,' in T. Walford and H. Young (eds), British Ceramic Design, 1600-2002, (ECC 2003).
    2. D. Vivant Denon, Voyage dans la Basse et la Haute Egypte, (London 1802).
    3. The British Museum clock (ref. 1909,1201.13) is illustrated on the BM website.
    4. The V&A Museum clock (ref. M.119:1 to 3-1966) is illustrated on the museum's website.
    5. British Horological Institute, first Vulliamy Clock Book.
    6. The National Archives, C104/58, Vulliamy Day Book 34.

    Our grateful thanks to Roger Smith for compiling this footnote.
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