Sunday, March 17, 2013

Unusual Artifacts: Nécessaire and Watch, 1770

James Cox, 1770
 Nécessaire and Watch
Gold, Silver, Enamel, Paste Gems, Pearls, Glass
The Royal Collection
James Cox, an Eighteenth Century jeweler and clockmaker, was responsible for creating some of the most unique and exceptional watches and automata of the period. For instance, he crafted a terribly realistic, life-size automaton of a swan with silver plumage which became one of the most viewed objects in London at the time. Cox opened a museum of automata in Spring Gardens, Charing Cross which instantly became a popular attraction.

Cox created several unusual watch cases. This one, for instance, is a combination nécessaire and watch case. A nécessaire is exactly what it sounds like—a case for necessary things. In this instance, perfume bottles and other cosmetic items. The case is adorned with enamel, fanciful gold work of animal figures, silver, colored paste, glass and pearls. When opened, a watch and automaton are revealed. Ten jeweled bands spin around the face of the watch as the watch’s frame spins in the opposite direction. This was a favorite trick of James Cox who employed the same mechanism in a series of other watches and clocks.

Mary of Teck was a tremendous fan of Cox’s work—quite antique by her lifetime—and collected several pieces of his design. This one was gifted to her by King George V, her husband, in 1925.

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