Thursday, April 25, 2013

Precious Time: A Rare Figural Mantel Clock, 1783

Figural Mantel Clock
Vuilliamy, 1783
Marble, Gilt Bronze, Enamel, Porcelain
2nd Viscount Melbourne
by whom bequeated to Queen Victoria
The Royal Collection

This rare clock designed by innovative French horologist François-Justin Vulliamy with works by his son, Benjamin, shows an unusual design which had become quite the curiosity in Eighteenth Century England. Instead of a traditional clock face, the time is displayed on a dial-like mechanism which surmounts a gilt bronze and marble urn. Clocks such as this one often were set upon marble bases with gilded mounts and with Biscuit or Parian figures in a Classical style. Vuilliamy, realizing the necessity of quality, employed the finest sculptors to create the figures for these clock cases. In this instance, English sculptor John Deare worked directly for Vuilliamy, modeling this figure on a composition by John Bacon.

Crown Copyright
The Royal Collection

At one point, two other such clocks were housed in the Royal Collection, also created by Vuilliamy and with similar themes. They had been made expressly for King George III. While the Collection’s records indicate that George III had prized these clocks, no further evidence of them exists and they cannot be accounted for. This particular clock was bequeated to Queen Victoria by Lord Melbourne in 1848—a good sixty-five years after its creation.

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