A highly important South German quarter striking astronomical table clock with alarm from the group known as "The Orpheus Clocks",  circa 1570

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Lot 68
A highly important South German quarter striking astronomical table clock with alarm from the group known as "The Orpheus Clocks",
circa 1570

Sold for US$ 275,000 inc. premium

The Art of Time

6 Dec 2018, 13:00 EST

New York

A highly important South German quarter striking astronomical table clock with alarm from the group known as "The Orpheus Clocks",
circa 1570
Case: Cylindrical, with finely cast and chased frieze in high relief depicting Orpheus and Euridice in a forest landscape inhabited by exotic and domestic European and African animals, the applied top and base moldings chased with leaves, the detachable base plate opening to reveal the movement and engraved with a table of the days of the week and the unequal hours and their ruling planets, raised on three bun feet

Dial: With 24-hour roman chapter ring and arabic 60-minute ring enclosing a recessed planisphere engraved with lines to read Italian and unequal hours; the recess fitted with a rotating "rete" formed from an annual calendar ring enclosing a pierced arabesque tracery and eccentric ring representing the Ecliptic labeled with the Zodiac (first point of Aires = 11 March)

Hands: Fitted with three hands, comprising a slender center sweep minute hand; a second larger hand to mark the hour, labeled "SOL" and engraved with the ruling deity, the circular base of this hand divided around its edge with numerals giving the age of the moon when read from the leading edge of the third and smaller hand, labeled "LUNA" and engraved with an image of Diana, the base of this hand serving as a volvelle showing the phase of the Moon and a diagram of the Ptolemaic aspects of the planets

Movement: Triple fusee with circular iron plates joined by five faceted pillars secured by screws, verge escapement constructed as a sub assembly screwed to the plates, scroll form iron cock for the two arm iron balance with hog bristle regulation adjusted by levers and numbered gilt dial, the skeletonized back plate with brass scroll overlay, gilt engraved count wheels for hour and quarter striking on two bells, separate alarm mechanism planted under the hour bell, also on back plate, a gilt alarm setting disc and labeled gilt day of week dial engraved with ruling deities, serpentine polished iron indicator
21.8 cm diam.

Footnotes

  • The present clock is the most recent addition to a group of German late 16th century horizontal table clocks first brought to scholarly attention in the 1972 treatise, The Orpheus Clocks by Philip Coole and Erwin Neuman.

    While no two of the clocks are identical, all share a case incorporating a finely cast frieze depicting the legend of Orpheus and Euridice. The couple inhabit a forest landscape populated by exotic African and European animals charmed by the music played by Orpheus. The other members of the group include:

    Two clocks in the Wurttembergisches Landesmuseum, Stuttgart, a quarter striking alarm clock with six hour dial which was in the Gutmann Collection, Berlin, and a quarter striking clock from the J. Hunt Collection, Ireland. Both subsequently in the collection of Joseph Fremersdorf, Lucerne

    Bayerisches Nationalmuseum, Munich. A quarter striking alarm clock sold from the collection of the Parisian dealer Friedrich Spitzer in 1892 and subsequently acquired by Ernst von Bassermann-Jordan.

    Adler Planetarium and Astronomical Museum, Chicago, an hour striking alarm clock acquired as part of the Mensing Collection, Amsterdam by Max Adler.

    Milwaukee Art Museum, Richard B. Flagg Collection, with astrolabic dial but replaced movement.

    Hour striking alarm clock with astrolabic dial, sold Christie's, London, Works of Art from the Wernher Collection, 5 July 2000, lot 56 for £168,750. Acquired between 1890-1912 by Sir Harold Wernher, Bt., Luton Hoo, Bedfordshire.

    A square clock, formerly in the Georgi collection. Present whereabouts unknown. Exhibited at the 1900 Paris World Exhibition.

    British Museum, London, Octavius Morgan bequest, 1888. Inv. No.88 12-1 102, a square clock with separate alarm mechanism above the case.

    An empty case with later astrolabic dial formerly on loan to the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, sold Christie's, London, The Collection of the Barons Nathaniel and Albert von Rothschild, 8 July 1999, lot 183, for £95,000.

    These clocks are described in detail by Coole and Neuman. Since the publication of the original group of nine, an additional clock came to light in a 1986 Christie's Geneva auction.

    An hour striking clock formerly with alarm, sold Christie's Geneva 12 November 1986 and again Christie's London 5 July 2002 lot 38, for $405,054.

    A case, complete with top and bottom moldings that had been incorporated into a later clock, sold Sotheby's, Zurich, 6 May 1977,

    The current example first appeared in 2007. It is arguably the best preserved clock in the group.

    Despite the importance of these clocks, neither the case maker nor the clockmaker have been positively identified. It is generally agreed that the cases are all the product of the same workshop. The movements and dials vary from clock to clock.

    The quarter striking movement of the Munich clock, although somewhat altered, appears most similar to the present clock. The Munich clock in turn shares features with both the Adler clock and the clock formerly at Luton Hoo although both are merely hour striking. The Christie's Geneva clock is also closely similar to the latter two clocks. Together, these four clocks form a coherent group to which should be added the present clock. All share construction details including their plates and pillars, escapement sub assembly, the form and decoration of their hands, and in the Geneva and Adler clocks, the form of the arabesque lattice and ecliptic ring. Both the Adler and Geneva clocks have the unusual brass overlay on their back plates

    One hint of their origin is a maker's punch, AM conjoined, found on the Adler and Luton Hoo clocks. Unfortunately, it has yet to be attributed.

    For the most comprehensive discussion of these clocks, see:
    Philip Coole and Erwin Neuman. The Orpheus Clocks, London, Hutchinson (1972)
Contacts
A highly important South German quarter striking astronomical table clock with alarm from the group known as "The Orpheus Clocks",  circa 1570
A highly important South German quarter striking astronomical table clock with alarm from the group known as "The Orpheus Clocks",  circa 1570
A highly important South German quarter striking astronomical table clock with alarm from the group known as "The Orpheus Clocks",  circa 1570
A highly important South German quarter striking astronomical table clock with alarm from the group known as "The Orpheus Clocks",  circa 1570
A highly important South German quarter striking astronomical table clock with alarm from the group known as "The Orpheus Clocks",  circa 1570
A highly important South German quarter striking astronomical table clock with alarm from the group known as "The Orpheus Clocks",  circa 1570
A highly important South German quarter striking astronomical table clock with alarm from the group known as "The Orpheus Clocks",  circa 1570
A highly important South German quarter striking astronomical table clock with alarm from the group known as "The Orpheus Clocks",  circa 1570
A highly important South German quarter striking astronomical table clock with alarm from the group known as "The Orpheus Clocks",  circa 1570
A highly important South German quarter striking astronomical table clock with alarm from the group known as "The Orpheus Clocks",  circa 1570
A highly important South German quarter striking astronomical table clock with alarm from the group known as "The Orpheus Clocks",  circa 1570
A highly important South German quarter striking astronomical table clock with alarm from the group known as "The Orpheus Clocks",  circa 1570
A highly important South German quarter striking astronomical table clock with alarm from the group known as "The Orpheus Clocks",  circa 1570
A highly important South German quarter striking astronomical table clock with alarm from the group known as "The Orpheus Clocks",  circa 1570
A highly important South German quarter striking astronomical table clock with alarm from the group known as "The Orpheus Clocks",  circa 1570
A highly important South German quarter striking astronomical table clock with alarm from the group known as "The Orpheus Clocks",  circa 1570
A highly important South German quarter striking astronomical table clock with alarm from the group known as "The Orpheus Clocks",  circa 1570
A highly important South German quarter striking astronomical table clock with alarm from the group known as "The Orpheus Clocks",  circa 1570
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