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Clock case

  • Place of origin:

    Paris (made)

  • Date:

    early 19th century (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Robin, Nicolas Robert and Jean-Joseph (maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    ormolu, slate, enamel, brass, gold leaf, steel

  • Credit Line:

    Gift from Somers Clarke

  • Museum number:

    M.234:1 to 8-1916

  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

A skeleton clock on an ormolu frame with enamelled dials and mahogany plinth, signed 'Robin a Paris', French, early 19th century. The so called 'skeleton' clock was introduced during the reign of Louis XVI at a time when there was increased interest in the scientific aspects of time keeping. The clock movement was immediately visible whilst reading the time. This clock was made by Nicholas-Robert and Jean-Joseph Robin, sons of Louis XVI's clockmaker Robert Robin, who succeeded to their father's business on his death in 1799.

Physical description

Case: ormolu clock with polished slate plinth, enamelled dials, and brass skeleton frame. In a glazed cabinet on a mahogany pedestal with ormolu mounts. The frame rises on four lions' legs terminating in winged lions' heads. An openwork plaque of floral design hangs from the large dial; the smaller one above is supported by acanthus leaves; both have moulded ormolu frames. The mahogany pedestal is decorated with an applied openwork plaque of floral design in front with the figure of a nymph holding a garland in a lozenge shaped frame and four swans in circular frames with a festoon at each end and rests on four knob feet. The dial for the phases of the moon is painted with a landscape. The clock strikes hours and half hours.

Dial: the steel and gilt brass hands, pierced in the shape of a lyre, show seconds, minutes, hours, day of week, and day of month, and the upper dial the phases of the moon. The main dial is of ormolu, recessed to receive a white-enamel chapter ring. The outer minute-ring also serves as a ring for the centre-seconds, having 60 main divisions and intermediate half-divisions for the half seconds and is numbered in Arabic at 15, 30, 45, and 60. Within this is a set of roman hours I to XII, and two further internal rings: a set of figures 1 to 31 for the date and, within this, a set of abbreviated weekday names in French in the upper half of the dial and a set of corresponding planetary symbols representing the phases of the moon. The clock strikes hours and half-hours, and has a pin-wheel escapement and gridiron pendulum. In glazed cabinet on mahogany pedestal with ormolu mounts, depicted a figure of a nymph holding a garland and four swans in circular frames. The backplate is signed 'ROBIN A PARIS'. French; early 19th century.

Movement: both going and striking trains, both with going barrels rotating once in 3 days and giving at least 14 days duration. The going train has an Amant-type of pin-wheel escapement and a gridiron compensation pendulum, with 5 steel and 4 brass rods. The heavy brass-covered lead pendulum bob is supported at its centre and there is a knurled regulating screw. A simple thermometer mechanism is incorporated in the pendulum, part of which is missing, but the indicating pointer survives, also the scale, engraved on a white-enamel arc, ranging from +15 to -15 marked 'Chaud', 'Tempere' and 'Froid', entitled collectively 'Clementa suis propriis annis victo (Clements their own years in defeat). The striking train is of locking-plate type, and the count-wheel permits an extra single stroke at each half-hour. The calendar and lunar mechanisms operate once per day, and are released by a lever projecting from a wheel driven by a 3:1 speed-up from the great wheel of the striking train. The star-wheels for the date and day-of-the-week hands have 31 and 14 teeth respectively, and the ratchet wheel for the lunar dial has 59 teeth.

Place of Origin

Paris (made)

Date

early 19th century (made)

Artist/maker

Robin, Nicolas Robert and Jean-Joseph (maker)

Materials and Techniques

ormolu, slate, enamel, brass, gold leaf, steel

Marks and inscriptions

+15 -15 'Chaud', 'Tempere' 'Froid' 'Clementa suis propriis annis victo'
hot temperate cold and 'Clements their own years in defeat'
Inscribed on the thermometer which forms part of the pendulum

ROBIN A PARIS
Robin in Paris
Inscribed on the back of the movement

Dimensions

Height: 2, 5.8 ft Clock, Width: 15 in Clock, Height: 6 ft cabinet and pedestal, Weight: 2, 5 ft cabinet with pedestal, Depth: 9.6 in cabinet with pedestal

Object history note

Given by Somers Clarke

Historical context note

This is a new form of clock that emerged during the reign of France’s King Louis XVI (1638-1715) with its movement on view; known as ‘skeleton clocks’.

Descriptive line

Skeleton clock with case, signed ROBIN A PARIS, early 19th century

Production Note

The clock was probably made by one of the sons of Robert Robin (1742-1799), clockmaker to Louis XVI. Both Nicholas-Robert Robin (1775-1812) and his elder brother Jean-Joseph (d.1858) worked for Louis XVIII.

Materials

Ormolu; Gilt-brass; Steel; Enamel

Categories

Clocks & Watches; Scientific instruments; Metalwork

Collection

Metalwork Collection

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