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Courtly Mother of Pearl Table Clock “au cercle tournant” with Quarter Strike

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Höfische Perlmutt-Tischuhr au cercle tournant mit Viertelstundenschlag

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Vienna, first quarter of the 19th century

Case
elaborate mother of pearl-covered case with engine turned and fire-gilt bronze mounts (ormolu) fashioned in the shape of a “cassolette tripode” with tripod “au victoire” made of fire-gilt bronze (ormolu) with winged Nikes und dolphins, ormolu dove on a mother of pearl-covered base
Dial
rotating dial ring, also covered with mother of pearl (“cercle tournant”), arrow in the mouth of the ormolu snake acts as fixed hand
Movement
duplex escapement, Viennese grande sonnerie on wire gongs, repeater, all three gear trains with ruby bearings
Height
10¼ in

In the first half of the 19th century, mother-of-pearl works from Vienna were viewed as an elegant luxury; they were highly sought-after around the world and of the highest quality. Alongside Paris and London, the Danube metropolis of Vienna was among the most important hubs for fashionable accessories made from the exquisite natural material with a velvety iridescence. Today, the high-quality pieces by renowned Viennese mother-of-pearl craftsmen such as Karl Schmid, Johann Tanzwohl and Nicolaus Rozet are to be found in the important collections of the MET, the Museum of Applied Arts Vienna and the Victoria & Albert Museum. For the clock cases of their most prestigious assignments, established Viennese clockmakers also employed the outstanding skills of these masters. The present noble timepiece is a masterpiece of craftsmanship of the very highest degree and represents an impressive example of the perfectly coordinated division of labor between gifted clockmakers, mother-of-pearl craftsmen, chasers, cabinetmakers, decorative metalworkers, and gilders of the Habsburg Monarchy in the first quarter of the 19th century. The exceedingly refined case has the shape of a “cassolette tripode”, a container for incense and aromas that was popular during the Baroque and Empire periods. It boasts a three-sided base coated with mother-of-pearl, with a fire-gilt dove made of bronze and similarly decorated bun feet. Rising from this is a tripod “au victoire” with winged ormolu Nike figures, which taper off into dolphin-shaped feet. The Nikes take on the role of caryatids, bearing the vase-shaped casing for the clockwork, which is studded with mother-of-pearl. The time display entails a rotating chapter ring “au cercle tournant” with Roman numerals on mother-of-pearl cartouches and a fixed hand in the form of an arrow in the mouth of an ormolu snake. The movement, with a duplex escapement and Viennese grande sonnerie on wire gongs, displays ruby bearings in all three gear trains. The curved vase lid, which is coated with mother-of-pearl, can be removed to reveal the winding arbors of the horizontally installed movement. This courtly clock originates from the possession of a noble family and was part of the original furnishings of the Mondsee Castle belonging to the Counts Almeida.

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