Sunday, March 17, 2013

Precious Time: Queen Charlotte’s Porcelain Clock, 1761

Porcelain Clock Case
Chelsea, 1761
Presented to Queen Charlotte, 1761-7
The Royal Collection
Queen Charlotte, much like her husband, King George III, was a collector of beautiful objects. This brightly colored soft-paste bone ash porcelain clock was a gift to Queen Charlotte from one of her sons and curiously is a near-twin to another such porcelain clock in the queen’s collection.

Representative of the style of the time, the clock represents a pastoral group of many figures, rendered in brilliant polychrome. Judging by the predominant red color and it’s extraordinary match to another clock in the Royal Collection, we can determine that this clock case was created in Chelsea by Lawrence Street Factory whose catalogs offered hand-sculpted porcelains known for their startlingly vibrant red. The figures were most likely modeled by Joseph Willem—a Flemish designer who worked for the Lawrence Street Factory during the 1760’s. Willem was known for his delicacy of hand and his ability in creating lush, bucolic scenes. Slight differences in the modeling between the two clocks would indicate that this clock’s near-twin was not modeled by Willem, but rather by another artist seeking to imitate the Flemish artist’s work.

The clockworks and face were replaced by King George III’s official clockmaker, the German-born George Philip Strigel who was faced with the monumental task of winding and monitoring all of the clocks in all of the Royal Residences. Many was the time when the King would find Strigel on a stool, reaching high above his head to wind a mantel clock. I have a mental picture of Strigel muttering under his breath while caring for this frivolous creation which would be so greatly against his German sensibilities.

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