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Augsburg Clock

  • Object:

    Cabinet clock

  • Place of origin:

    Augsburg (made)

  • Date:

    1700-1725 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Wood, boulle marquetry and tortoiseshell, silver and gilded silver (silver-gilt), inlaid mother-of-pearl, ivory, enamel and brass, pietre dure, cut garnets, turquoise, micromosaic, velvet, porcelain, mirror glass, gilt bronze, oil on copper

  • 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 70, The Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Galleries, case 5 []

Clocks like this extraordinary piece were famous Augsburg products in early modern times. They showcased the city’s excellence in creating luxury goods, including the decoration of Meissen porcelain.

Gemstones, additional silver mounts and precious veneer from different sources were added in the 19th century to suit the tastes of collectors, such as Lord Roseberry, British Prime Minister from 1894-5. His wife Hannah inherited the great Rothschild mansion Mentmore, where this clock resided until it became part of the Gilbert Collection in 1977. Arthur Gilbert enthused that this clock exhibits ‘every form of decorative art that you could possibly imagine'.

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. Arthur Gilbert donated his extraordinary collection to Britain in 1996.

Physical description

A cabinet clock of architectural form in three sections: a base with shaped borders and volutes at the corners; a central body; and a top storey with a lantern. The cabinet is faced in tortoiseshell, with borders and Corinthian columns at each corner of silver-gilt.
Chinoiserie panels, inlaid mother-of-pearl, ivory, enamel and brass are set around the base and upper storey. The front of the upper storey bears a large mother-of-pearl plaque inlaid with Chinoiserie motifs and relief designs in silver-gilt. Small silver statuettes of Buddha adorn the volutes at the base, the centre of the upper storey, and the pediment of the lantern. Figures from classical mythology appear on the sides of the cabinet.
On the front of the base is a red, velvet-lined drawer containing a Meissen tea service consisting of nine pieces. Below this is another drawer containing a removable square silver-gilt inkwell and pounce pot, and having two rectangular compartments, probably intended to hold pens and keys. There are six keys; one large and five small.
The mother of pearl dial applied with cut garnets and turquoise, the arms are made of micromosaic. The clock mechanism has a calendar movement and is quarter striking.

Place of Origin

Augsburg (made)


1700-1725 (made)



Materials and Techniques

Wood, boulle marquetry and tortoiseshell, silver and gilded silver (silver-gilt), inlaid mother-of-pearl, ivory, enamel and brass, pietre dure, cut garnets, turquoise, micromosaic, velvet, porcelain, mirror glass, gilt bronze, oil on copper

Marks and inscriptions

Apollo God of the Arts
Mercury Messenger of the Gods
On right and left and side of the clock


Height: 114.3 cm, Width: 67.9 cm, Depth: 49.8 cm

Object history note

Provenance: Fifth Earl of Rosebery, Mentmore Towers Sale, Sotheby's, lot 1053, 20/05/1977; Ronald A. Lee, London, 1977.

Historical context note

The clock was probably made for a member of the aristocracy. Anna Maria Massinelli sees a link with the politically influential countly family Schönborn based upon the repeated use of the motif of a rhinoceros in combination with the Schönborn coat-of-arms on works of art from the same period.

Descriptive line

Silver-gilt wood, tortoiseshell, silver, mother of pearl and other materials, Augsburg; 1700-1715 and later

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

Art at Auction: The year at Sotheby Parke-Bernet 1976-77. London; New York: Sotheby's Parke-Bernet, p. 17.
Town and Country, vol.133, no.4989, May 1979. New York: The Stuyvesant Company, p.123.
Connaissance des Arts, October 1996, p. 85.
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.11, pp. 56-59. ISBN 0856675105.
Schroder, Timothy, ed. The Gilbert Collection at the V&A. London (V&A Publishing) 2009, p. 10, pl. 2. ISBN9781851775934
Ducret, Siegfried. Meißner Porzellan bemalt in Augsburg, 1718 bis um 1750. 2 vols. Braunschweig: Verlag Klinkhardt & Biermann 1971-1972. Vol. 1, pls. 172-173.
Mentmore. Mentmore Towers Sale Catalogue. 5 vols. London: Sotheby Parke-Bernet & Co., 1977. Works of Art and Silver 1977 May 18-23. Vol. 2, lot 1053, pp. 146-48.

Labels and date

(Gallery 70, case 5)
Table clock
Clock, 1720–40, with later elements. Tea service, 1720–30
Popular with 19th-century collectors, luxury products from Augsburg like this clock and tea service were embellished further with silver mounts and precious veneers. This clock belonged to Archibald Primrose, fifth Earl of Rosebery and Prime Minister from 1894 to 1895. Primrose married Hannah de Rothschild, a keen art collector, in 1878. To Arthur Gilbert, this clock celebrated ‘every form of decorative art that you could possibly imagine’.
Clock: Augsburg, Germany.
Tea service: made in Meissen, Germany; decorated in Augsburg, Germany
Silver, gilded silver, ebony, ivory with decoration in tortoiseshell, lacquer, glass, micromosaic, mother-of-pearl, glass, pietre dure (hardstone mosaic), oil on copper, garnets, turquoise, brilliants, painted porcelain, enamel and brass
Museum no. Loan:Gilbert.3-2008 [16/11/2016]

Production Note

Containing an engraved and incised silver frame in the manner of Andreas Thelot (Augsburg 1655-1734); and Meissen porcelain tea service with Augsburg Hausmaler decoration, the gilding attributed to a member of the Seuter family


Wood; Tortoise shell; Silver; Brass (alloy); Bronze; Lacquer; Mother of pearl; Ivory; Hardstones; Mosaic glass; Reflective glass; Garnet; Turquoise; Copper; Hard paste porcelain; Velvet; Enamel; Oil colour; Silver-gilt


Inlay (process); Gilding; Micromosaic; Pietre dure; Engraving (incising); Casting; Setting; Painting (image-making); Carving; Embossing

Subjects depicted

Astrology (concept); Months of the year; Allegory; Busts; Rhinoceros; Dogs (animals); Chinoiserie; Dragons; Mythology; Zodiac symbols; Monkeys (animals)


Clocks & Watches; Metalwork; Porcelain


Metalwork Collection

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