18th century English-made automaton musical clock may bring $1 million or more Jan. 21 at Fontaine's An exceedingly rare 18th century English-made pagoda form automaton musical clock, produced for the Chinese Qing Imperial Court, is expected to soar to $800,000-$1.2 million at Fontaine's on Jan. 21.
News-Antique.com - Dec 21,2016 - PITTSFIELD, Mass. – An exceedingly rare 18th century English-made pagoda form automaton musical clock, produced for the Chinese Qing Imperial Court, is expected to soar to $800,000-$1.2 million at an Antique & Fine Arts Auction planned for Saturday, Jan. 21st, by Fontaine’s Auction Gallery, in the firm’s showroom at 1485 Housatonic Street in Pittsfield, at 10 am EST.
The clock is the expected top lot in a sale that will feature over 500 items, including a fine clock collection, watches, music boxes, Tiffany lighting, exceptional furniture, oil paintings, bronzes, estate jewelry, fine silver and accessories. Internet bidding will be provided by Invaluable.com, LiveAuctioneers.com and the Fontaine’s Auction Gallery website, www.FontainesAuction.com.
The clock is magnificent: 50 inches tall (raised, on a large black wood block base) and weighing 100 pounds. It has an engraved chessboard pattern brass top, with 5-inch painted metal dials on the front and both sides and Roman hour numerals. The time movement triggers the automaton mechanism once every two hours, and the heavy bronze case has elegant color paste set jewels.
The case form is based on the Porcelain Pagoda of Nanjing (or the Temple of Repaid Gratitude), built in the 15th century, during the Chinese Ming dynasty. It was mostly destroyed in the 19th century, during the Taiping Rebellion, but with nine stories and a staircase in the middle, it was one of the tallest buildings in China and often called one of the Seven Wonders of the World.
As beautiful as the clock is physically, it is equally enchanting musically. It plays two different tunes on a nest of eight bells, including the old Chinese folk song Mo Li Hau, which has been popular since the 17th century, in China and elsewhere. The pagoda animates every two hours, corresponding to the 12-hour Chinese time system. The music also plays every two hours.
In addition, E. Howard & Co. (Boston) clocks, popular with collectors, are a staple at most Fontaine’s clock auctions, and this sale has several, to include a No. 61 floor regulator with the original signed 14-inch painted dial, 96 inches tall, estimated at $60,000-$80,000; and a floor standing regulator, signed & dated 1891, with gravity escapement by H. Conant. It should sell for $20,000-$30,000.
Visually arresting French clocks will include an industrial clock with a gilt brass case in the form of a vertical steam boiler, with moving parts animated by a spring-driven mechanism, expected to hit $20,000-$25,000; and a silk thread bronze mantle clock by Jacques Dubuc, with a bronze case depicting a scene from the 1806 ballet titled Le Volage Fixe, estimated at $20,000-$30,000.
Tops in the fine art category are a mixed media abstract composition drawing on paper by Fernand Leger (1881-1955), monogrammed and signed “F.L.” lower right, with an estimate of $25,000-$40,000; and a pencil drawing on paper of a nude woman lying down with a bare breast and dark hair, ink-stamped ‘Tom Wesselmann’ (1931-2004), expected to reach $20,000-$30,000.
Fine decorative accessories will feature a set of three silver