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  • Place of origin:

    Paris (pietre dure, made)
    London (cabinet, made)

  • Date:

    1650-1700 (made)
    1824 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Hume, Robert (cabinet maker)
    Gobelins workshops (mosaicist)

  • Credit Line:

    The Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Collection on loan to the Victoria and Albert Museum, London

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Gold, Silver and Mosaics, Room 73, The Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Galleries, case West Exp

Sir Arthur Gilbert and his wife Rosalinde formed one of the world's great decorative art collections, including silver, mosaics, enamelled portrait miniatures and gold boxes. He donated his extraordinary collection to Britain in 1996. Arthur Gilbert was also fascinated by the evolution of pietre dure and purposefully acquired 16th-century masterpieces as well as 20th-century creations.

Louis XIV, King of France (1643–1715), invited Florentine artisans to serve in the production of French Decorative Arts at the Parisian workshop, Les Gobelins. They made the six rectangular panels of flowers and birds, which were reset in this clock cabinet by Robert Hume in 1824 for Alexander, 10th Duke of Hamilton, in Lanarkshire, Scotland.

To find out more about the making of pietre dure, watch the video Making a Pietre Dure panel: http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/videos/m/video-making-a-pietre-dure-panel.

Physical description

A rectilinear cabinet with three doors in an architectural form. The lower part has three drawers with relief mosaic panels in pietre dure on a background of black marble set into gilt-bronze frames. The central panel is larger than the other two and is decorated with an image of a bird pecking a bunch of grapes. The two side panels have pictures of birds perched on sprigs of fruit and flowers. The middle section has four columns of Sicilian jasper with Corinthian capitals and bases of gilt bronze. The doors to either side bear mirrors edged in gilt bronze. The central door is almost entirely filled by the large dial of a clock. At the centre of the clock is a circular plaque of black marble with a sunburst of lapis lazuli.

Place of Origin

Paris (pietre dure, made)
London (cabinet, made)


1650-1700 (made)
1824 (made)


Hume, Robert (cabinet maker)
Gobelins workshops (mosaicist)


Depth: 55.9 cm, Width: 165.1 cm ., Height: 115.6 cm, Depth: 50.0 cm marble top only

Object history note

Documents in the Hamilton archives indicate that the London cabinet maker Robert Hume procured mosaic items specifically for this clock cabinet which was under construction in 1822. The cabinet was completed on 16 December 1824. The pietre dure on the clock face and its immediate outer border with its fruit motifs carved in deep relief and attached by gilt-bronze pins differs from the earlier pietre dure panels and was probably commissioned specifically for this cabinet in the 1820s.

The six panels on the lower and upper cornices of this cabinet were made according to the relief technique developed in Florence under the influence of Giovanni Battista Foggini; this technique spread to the Gobelins factory in France when Florentine mosaicists went to work there. During the 18th century some of the products of the Gobelins workshops were dismantled and re-used. These six panels are clearly related to a series of mosaics illustrated on a design for a cabinet by Philippe Francois Julliot (1735-1835) which include the motif of a bird pecking at grapes. Two similar mosaics are found on a pair of cabinets by Adam Weisweiler in the Swedish Royal Collection; others are on a pair of cabinets by the same cabinet maker in the Wallace Collection, London.

The Manufacture des Gobelins was founded as a dye works in the middle of the fifteenth century by Jean Gobelin. It was purchased by the French Crown in 1662 in order to produce luxury objects for Louis XIV. Under the supervision of first minister Jean Baptiste Colbert and its director Charles le Brun it became a laboratory for perfecting artistic techniques, from tapestries to mirrors, bronze mounts to marquetry. Colbert indulged in industrial espionage, paying huge sums to tempt craftsmen away from their home countries, in order to discover the trade secrets that made the production of perfect objects possible. The relief mosaic technique developed in Florence under the influence of Giovanni Battista Foggini was brought to the Gobelins by Florentine mosaicists probably poached by Colbert.

Gobelins products were sometimes dismantled and their elements, such as these complex mosaics, incorporated into modern furniture. Robert Hume bought these panels specifically for this clock cabinet made for Hamilton Palace, the Lanarkshire home of Alexander, 10th Duke of Hamilton.

Alexander Hamilton Douglas, 10th Duke of Hamilton, Lanarkshire.
By descent to the 12th Duke of Hamilton.
Sale, Christie's, Hamilton Palace sale, lot 520, 26 June 1882.
Hugh Lupus Grosvenor, Duke of Westminster.
Sale, Christie's, Wateringbury Place sale, lot 311, 31 May 1978.
Partridge, London, 1978.

Descriptive line

Rectilinear clock cabinet of marble, hardstone, gilt bronze. Mosaics: Gobelins Workshops, France 1650-1700; cabinet: London, Robert Hume, 1825.

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Gere, Charlotte. Nineteenth-Century Decoration: The Art of the Interior. New York: Harry H. Abrams, 1989, pl. 88, p. 89; London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1989, pl. 88, p. 89.
Freyberger, Ronald. Christie's International Magazine, Vol. VIII, No 6, pp 10-14, June 1991, figs. 1, 5-6.
Giusti, Anna Maria. Pietre Dure and the Art of Florentine Inlay. London: Thames & Hudson, 2006. pp. 231-33, pl. 189.
Massinelli, Anna Maria with contributions by Jeanette Hanisee Gabriel. Hardstones: The Gilbert Collection. London: Philip Wilson Publishers Ltd. in association with The Gilbert Collection, 2000. 329 p., ill. Cat. no. 9, pp. 49-50. ISBN 0856675105.
Schroder, Timothy, ed. The Gilbert Collection at the V&A. London (V&A Publishing) 2009, p. 72, pl.54. ISBN9781851775934


Ebony; Gilt bronze; Hardstone; Glass; Lapis lazuli; Agate; Jasper; Marble; Chalcedony; Amethyst; Serpentinite


Carving; Gilding; Casting; Pietre dure; Glazing (glass)

Subjects depicted

Fruit; Flowers; Grapes; Birds; Swags


Clocks & Watches; Furniture; Metalwork


Metalwork Collection

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