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Museum Quality Mantel Clock “Dolphins” with visible Musical Movement

Museale Empireuhr Delphine mit sichtbarem Walzenspielwerk Peter Rau in Wien

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Vienna, first quarter of the 19th century

“Peter Rau in Wien”
Peter Rau,
Vienna, *22.6.1780 Bingen/Rhine, master 1811, † 25.9.1829 Vienna
engraved and chased ormolu, ormolu mounts, clock case supported by four dolphins, vase finial with snake handles, base glazed on all four sides, four lion feet
engine turned ormolu, enamel dial ring and enamel subsidiary dial for the date
anchor escapement, Viennese grande sonnerie on wire gongs, repeater, turn-off for strike, indication of date early musical movement with two tunes, most likely by Peter Götz, Vienna (acc. to Dr. H. Kowar) and automatic release after the hour or on demand, duration of two days
20 in

This magnificent mantel clock with musical movement represents a highlight of Viennese Empire clockmaking. Fire-gilt bronze cases tended to be reserved for an upscale, mostly aristocratic clientele. This large, sculpturally designed version with its glazed base and early musical movement is an absolute luxury object of the time.

The clockmaker responsible for this outstanding timepiece was one of the best masters of his trade: Peter Rau, born in Bingen on Rhine in 1780, received his master‘s degree in Vienna in 1811. In his store in Josefstadt (district of Vienna), he created excellent mechanisms and worked with the best case makers in the city. A clock by the famous Viennese clockmaker Carl Wurm with a case identical except for the glazing bears the monogram of the unknown Viennese bronze worker “K. J.” – most likely also the creator of the present magnificent case. Two pairs of intertwined dolphins act as supports for the shield-shaped movement case.

In Greek mythology, these marine mammals served the god Poseidon and were used by Venus, Cupid, and the sea nymphs as mounts and draft animals. Dolphins also stood for compassion and helpfulness, as they were often said to have saved people from drowning. Already in ancient times, the pointed narrow mouth of the dolphin was stylized to resemble a beak and the head was decorated with fins reminiscent of feathers. A Roman bronze dolphin from the 2nd century AD, which was found near the former colony of Augusta Raurica (Museum Basel-Landschaft, inv. no. 40.65.306), illustrates how much the Viennese bronziers were inspired by antiquity. The unusual pendulum bob in the shape of a sailboat with two rowing sailors blends in beautifully with the maritime theme of the clock case. Ormolu mounts in the form of laurel leaves and scrolling foliage, as well as a vase finial with serpentine handles, complete the rich decor.

To best showcase the excellent musical movement, the base is glazed on all four sides. This is a rare, very early musical movement with individually screwed pairs of teeth and double plate. Sections with two teeths each are typical of Anton Olbrich‘s first mechanisms, but in combination with a double plate they are known only from Peter Götz, which is why we suspect the latter to be the creator of this early mechanism.

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