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Art Nouveau Mantel Clock artist’s monogram by Joseph Maria Olbrich

Jugendstil Kommodenuhr Künstlermonogramm von Joseph Maria Olbrich

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Vienna, around 1904

Case
polished mahogany veneer, ornamental brass inlays
Dial
silver-plated dial
Movement
anchor escapement, half hour strike on wire gong, duration of one week “AD. Mougin Deux Medailles” (stamped on plate), Adolphe Mougin (1848–1928?), famous clock maker in Paris (Rue de Turenne 75 or Rue des Filles du Calvaire). 1889 and 1900 world exposition Paris (bronze and silver medal)
Height
13 ¾ in

Around the 1900s, clocks based on designs by renowned architects were given particular importance and were therefore positioned in prominent places in homes. This explains why they frequently played a significant role in the designs/interior decoration by the architect and designer Joseph Maria Olbrich. In these models, the allusion to buildings in the shape of the clock cases, particularly in mantel clocks, is undeniable. “The idea that a clock can become a piece of furniture, and that the furniture can become the house, has its place in Olbrich’s fantasy world, and this is, to this day, backed up by the humanistic notions of proportion and metamorphosis, which have inspired artists time and again […]”.1 Based on its design, it is possible that this clock was created in connection with the blueprint for a restaurant for an exhibition by the Darmstadt Artists’ Colony.2 The “universal artist” Olbrich reduced the form of the clock to the essential; he did the same in terms of its ornamental elements, its material and its color. This exceedingly elegant clock is finished in exquisite mahogany wood with fine, decorative linear brass inlays. The curved lines of the décor harmonize perfectly with the shape of the clock, lending it accents of utter elegance. In the center of the clock, the silver-plated metal dial is resplendent with Olbrich’s artist monogram. As a representative of the synthesis of the arts, Olbrich was continuously striving to find new forms, which he was outstandingly successful especially concerning this clock case.

In 1893, Otto Wagner hired him initially as a draughtsman, and later as an employee for the construction of the stations for Vienna’s metropolitan railway. Olbrich remained at Wagner’s studio for five years, undertaking several research trips during this time. As a co-founder of the Vienna Secession in 1897, he designed its exhibition building – his first major assignment – which today, with its gilt dome (the “Golden Cabbage”) represents one of Vienna’s landmarks. Due to the large number of private assignments for new constructions and conversions as well as interior designs, he opened his own studio in 1898. In 1899, Ernest Louis, Grand Duke of Hesse and by Rhine (Hesse-Darmstadt), brought Olbrich to Darmstadt, where he designed almost all the buildings for the Artists’ Colony at the Mathildenhöhe. Finally in 1907 he also relocated his studio to Darmstadt.

The same monogram can be found on a design for a cutlery in: Ralf Beil und Regina Stephan (ed.): Joseph Maria Olbrich. 1867–1908 (exhibtion catalog Leopold Museum), Darmstadt 2010, p. 300.

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