Time is readily accessible in 2017. From smartphones to wristwatches (smart, digital and beyond), we carry reliable, accurate time with us everywhere. Life was a different story in the 17th, 18th and early 19th centuries. Watch as the Senior Vice President and Division Head for British and European Furniture and Decorative Arts, Nicholas B.A. Nicholson, discusses the importance and innovation of clocks from the past.
Several notable clocks are being offered in the May 25 British and European Furniture and Decorative Arts sale. The two featured here were produced by pioneers in the art of horology.
The rare Robert-Houdin ‘Triple Mystery’ clock features a glass dial with a single hand, supported on a glass column giving to the appearance of absolutely no mechanics powering the timepiece. There is however, a movement located within the base of the clock that was quite complicated at the time of its production. A two-train circular movement powers the clock and includes an anchor escapement that strikes on the hour and half hour.
Jean Eugène Robert-Houdin was born into a family of clockmakers. After studying clockmaking and apprenticing with family members, Robert-Houdin soon shifted gears and become interested in magic. He performed with a comedy troupe until he met his wife Josephine Cécile Egaletine Houdin, daughter of famous horologer, Jaques François Houdin. Here, he was able to merge his heritage with his passion and create mechanisms like the ‘Triple Mystery Clock’. Robert-Houdin is now considered the father of modern magic. Perhaps the most famous tribute to his talents was when Ehrich Weiss changed his name to Houdini.
Another interesting lot offered in the British and European Furniture and Decorative Arts sale is a Thomas Wagstaff clock from the middle of the 18th century. Wagstaff was known for his talents in complex watchmaking. Among watches and clocks, less seen today is Wagstaff pieces that are musical.
This musical clock is of typical French form and includes a bronze-mounted veneered case with shaped sides and a glazed front on bowed feed fitted with sabots. It contains an eight-bell chiming mechanism that plays four separate songs. Along with the robust sound of the eight-bells, the clock includes a rotating layered dial depicting a country village and its inhabitants.