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Impressive Pipe Organ Clock

Beeindruckende Flötenuhr

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Vienna, first quarter of the 19th century

polished rosewood veneer, polished maple veneer with ink painting, gilt wooden mounts, fire-gilt bronze mount (ormolu), rectangular case with tiered base, gable, two semicircular columns with gilt bases and capitals, sides and front side with open work carvings and green fabric, with various motifs like palmette friezes, lyres, sphinxes and a winged caryatide with a lower body consisting of scrolling foliage shaped like the outline of a lyre, detail drawings made with ink, carpenter’s monogramm “C.V.” (?) with hardly legible date “1812” (?)
clockwork: anchor escapement, hour strike on bell organ movement: weight driven, with 23 pipes and 7 exchangeable barrels, organ movement: weight driven, with 23 pipes and 7 exchangeable barrels, according to a label the bellows was once signed “Joseph Zain Vienna 1812” – probably Johann Hain, mentd. in Vienna 1816–20, specialist for bellows, signatures in several organ clocks (according to organ clock expert Dr. Kowar Hain’s name was often read wrong because the kurrent handwriting is difficult to make out)
40×21½×14½ in

The exceptional importance of Viennese musical clocks during their period of origin is today evidenced by the fact that immortal composers such as Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven all created music specially for this invention. The organ automatons, which included pipework, bellows and exchangeable rollers, enabled passages and tempi that often surpassed the capabilities of flesh-and-blood musicians. The success story of the Viennese musical clock can be attributed to the unique conditions that prevailed in the metropolis on the Danube around the year 1800: this was where superb master clockmakers, excellent musical movement makers, gifted cabinetmakers, and, last but not least, an incomparable number of famous composers were all to be found at one point in time. In 1823, Stephan von Keeß opined, “Although these flute clocks were already known in France and perhaps in several places in Germany […] before they became known in Vienna, it is after all largely thanks to the Viennese artisans […] that we see the high level of perfection that these instruments have now attained.” Self-playing musical devices had been fabricated even during the Renaissance period. They decorated the Kunstkammers (chambers of art and curiosities) of Europe’s rulers. In the second half of the 18th century, mechanical musical instruments became the “must have” of the royal courts. They were regarded as works of art for which no costs or effort were spared on their production, and which often served as gifts for emperors and kings. In Vienna, they became famous in particular thanks to Count Deym, one of the most glamorous personalities of the time. Following a duel, he was forced to leave Austria, but returned in 1780 under the alias of Joseph Müller and opened an art gallery, where musical automatons could also be admired. These were obviously in tune with the popular taste of the time and were soon being crafted by local masters for an elite, usually noble clientèle. The cases for the Viennese musical clocks were of the very highest quality, with an innovative variety of shapes. The pipework and bellows can be housed in a protruding mantel clock case, or in a box-like pedestal on which the clock rests. Sometimes, these pieces were also created in the form of large items of furniture such as flute bureaus and armoires, as well as the occasional desk or even a canapé (Geymüllerschlössel Vienna), in which the organ mechanisms were fitted with a greater number of pipes. The pipeworks and exchangeable rollers were usually made of wood; the musical movements could be either spring or weightdriven. The indescribable luxury of a high-quality mechanical musical instrument that could be played at any time becomes evident when we observe the elaborate design and complex movement technology of the few Viennese musical clocks still preserved today.

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