A rare gilt bronze mystery clock Jean Eugene Robert-Houdin, Paris, mid-19th Century, the movement stamped Vincenti & Comp'ie

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Lot 41
A rare gilt bronze mystery clock
Jean Eugene Robert-Houdin, Paris, mid-19th Century, the movement stamped Vincenti & Comp'ie

Sold for US$ 10,000 inc. premium

The Art of Time

6 Dec 2018, 13:00 EST

New York

A rare gilt bronze mystery clock
Jean Eugene Robert-Houdin, Paris, mid-19th Century, the movement stamped Vincenti & Comp'ie
The transparent glass dial and single gilt hand within a gilt bezel above the vase shaped gilt case with applied basket of flowers, on a baluster plinth concealing the link to contrate wheels mounted within the case and on the front plate of a two train circular movement, anchor escapement with silk thread suspended pendulum, count wheel striking the hour and half hour on a bell mounted on the carved gilt wood base 16 in (40 cm) high

Footnotes

  • This mystery clock was devised by Jean Eugène Robert-Houdin (1805 – 1871) who was trained as a clockmaker, but is today considered the father of modern magic. During his lifetime, he was a French national hero.

    In the late 1830s, Robert-Houdin began to make mystery clocks with their movements hidden in the base of the clock. This clock is one of his second series of clocks, and the first to incorporate a transparent dial. The dial is made in two parts. The numerals are painted on a fixed disc. The hands are moved by a second disc with finely notched rim that engages a worm gear in the gilt support. This mechanism was the inspiration for the 20th century mystery clocks of Cartier.

    When one of Robert-Houdin's clocks was exhibited in London in 1838, onlookers were enchanted, coming up with their own theories on how the hand moved. As the movements for these clocks were invisible to the naked eye, it was even suggested they were operated by magnetism. Robert-Houdin showcased his creations at the Exhibition of French Industry in 1839, for which he won a bronze medal.

    See Derek Roberts, Mystery, Novelty & Fantasy Clocks, pp 225-226.
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