Thursday, September 12, 2013

Mastery of Design: A Scotch and French Clock, 1610-1615

Scottish Works, French Case
Gold, Silver, Enamel
1610-1615 with alterations from the Nineteenth Century
This and all related images from:
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Here’s a rather unusual timepiece—the work of a Scotch clockmaker and a French case designer. While the case is much the same as it was in the early Seventeenth Century when it was created, the movement of this spring-driven, striking table clock has been drastically changed over the centuries.

One of the most intriguing features of this domed clock is that the base plate—which no one would ever see—is extensively decorated and engraved--signed by David Ramsay. Additional decoration added to the clock was carried out by the French clockmaker Louis David as evidenced by a brass plate bearing his name. This plate cleverly was placed to cover Ramsay’s signature. Though unusual to modern eyes, the case was typical of a particular type of domed clocks from France. A variety of French clocks from this period have similar square bases and domed bell-covers, pierced with such openwork.

The scene on the engraved base shows King James I with his two sons Henry and Charles. They are holding the Pope's nose to a grindstone—as one doees. Also pictured on the right is a Cardinal accompanied by three friars who watch the scene in terror. This queer little scene is inspired by a settlement made in 1609 between Spain and the Estates General of the Netherlands which formed an alliance between a Roman Catholic and a Protestant state.

The top of the clock—which holds the dial, seen from above is set with silver and enamel which matches the four inset silver panels which adorn the ornate sides of the case.

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