Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Precious Time: A French Ebony, Glass and Ormolu Cabinet Clock, 1650-1824

Cabinet Clock
Mosaics by Gobelins 1650-1700
Case by Robert Hume, 1824
The Victoria & Albert Museum
This clock and cabinet is a marriage of almost two hundred years worth of parts. The ornate cabinet was made by Robert Hume in London in 1824. This architecturally grand cabinet is set with mosaics which were made in Paris between 1650-1700 in the Gobelins workshops.

The unfortunately named Gobelins was officially called, “The Manufacture des Gobelins” and was not in the business of manufacturing goblins, but rather, was a dye works founded in the mid-Fifteenth Century by Jean Gobelin.

In 1662, French King Louis XIV purchased the Gobelins Factory, as one does. Under new direction, a series of Royal artisans were joined together. Therein, a new royal tapestry and furniture works was established.

By the Nineteenth Century, works by Gobelins were falling out of style as a whole, but individual components of some pieces were still quite in vogue, and, therefore stripped and reused. Such is the case of the mosaics in this clock which were made by Florentine craftsmen working at the Gobelins . The main recycled items are the six rectangular panels of flowers and birds which are quintessentially late Seventeenth Century in style. These six panels were reset by Robert Hume in England as he designed this clock cabinet for Hamilton Palace--the Lanarkshire home of Alexander, 10th Duke of Hamilton.

I’m unable to find any explanation of the ornamental ormolu pieces which sit atop the cabinet. These, obviously, are removable. I suppose they can be added to give the clock case a little extra flare. After all, it’s so plain without them.

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