Monday, March 2, 2015

Precious Time: A Cabinet Clock from Augsburg, 1700-1725

Cabinet Clock
Augsburg (Made)
Meissen (Tea Set, Made)
This and all related images courtesy of
The Victoria & Albert Museum

This artful arrangement of wood, boulle marquetry, tortoiseshell, silver, silver-gilt, inlaid mother-of-pearl, ivory, enamel, brass, pietre dure, faceted garnets, turquoise, micromosaic, velvet, porcelain, mirrored glass, gilt bronze, and oil paint on copper sheeting makes for one very involved, brilliant timepiece.

This monumental cabinet clock comes from Augsburg. Both Augsburg and Nuremberg were hubs of important clock making from the 1650 through 1750. Master craftsmen from a variety of media would join forces to create majestic and unusual cases for the clock. This, surely, is one of the finest examples of their capabilities.

Truly extraordinary, this cabinet clock is comprises of nearly twenty costly different materials. Coupled with the high cost of labor for such a piece, surely this was a royal or, at least, noble commission. We don’t know for whom the clock was originally produced, however, the curators at the V&A have determined that this was the same clock that once belonged to Lord Rosebery, British Prime Minister from 1894-5, as evidenced by photographs of the Lord from that time period (see the black and white picture detail below).

Though the clock is certainly interesting in all that’s apparent, from the little Buddha figures to the impressive inlay-work, it also contains some hidden treasures which aren’t immediately seen. For example, a neatly in-set drawer contains a Meissen tea set in a pattern which matches the clock as well as a silver picture frame.

This was a gift to the V&A from Sir Arthur Gilbert and his wife Rosalinde—two of the world's foremost decorative arts collectors, and was included in their 1996 bequest of silver, mosaics, enameled portrait miniatures and gold boxes.

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