Friday, February 15, 2013

Mastery of Design: A Brilliant Jeweled Clock-Watch, 1738

Medallion: 1738
Gold, Enamel, Agate, Diamonds, Garnets, Emeralds
Watch Movement: 1690
The Victoria & Albert Museum

This interesting piece of art isn’t quite sure if it’s a watch or if it’s a clock. The curators at the V&A call it the “Clock-Watch,” with good reason. The object consists of a medallion created of a gilded copper alloy and mother-of-pearl which has been mounted with agate cameos of the Roman Emperors Augustus and Vespasian and a carnelian bust of Minerva. The helmet and armor are rendered in gold. The medallion is further adorned with settings of diamonds (predominately brilliant cut in an early appearance, but some are table-cut), almandine and hessonite garnets, emeralds and ornate enameled plaques. This medallion has been fitted with a separate gold watch movement which is accessible by removing the gold backing on the piece as a whole.
The watch movement dates to about 1690, predating the medallion by almost half a century. The movement, which was most certainly the work of a London watch-maker, was possibly set in another case before being set into this medallion which seems to have been made expressly for the purpose of housing it. The movement’s top plate bears the name of Du Thuillay of Halle. The medallion is the work of goldsmith Johann Salomon Mëyer of Zerbst. His signature is on the reverse of the medallion, together with the date, 1738.

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