The case largely retains its original fire-gilding of superb depth and colour. The step-moulded sides are engraved with geometric bands above arcaded courtyard vistas in perspective and each central arch has a different view; a tree, a castle, a windmill and a bridge, each perhaps representing an allegorical view of late 16th Century London. The latched base panel has an engraved border and is signed VALLEN within a scroll engraved cartouche. The square gilt-brass top plate has engraved fan spandrels flanking a re-instated bezel holding a restored pierced and engraved cupola bell cover.
The delicate silver champlevé chapter ring has flower-head half hour markers surrounding a gilt 24-hour ring, while the concentrically engraved centre is interspersed with arcades and foliage.
The fire-gilded square movement plates are held by four square section baluster pillars, the going train has a fusee and verge escapement, with restored barrel, balance cock and brass balance. The strike train has a fixed steel barrel and calibrated countwheel for striking on the restored bell. The backplate retains much of the original gilding and secures to the case with steel turn catches.
The Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens, Jacksonville, Florida.
Private collection U.K.
3¾ inches square
The Cummer Vallin Circa 1595
An exceedingly rare Elizabethan engraved gilt-brass striking horizontal table clock .
Nicholas Vallin (circa 1565-1603) was the second son of John Vallin, a Flemish clockmaker, originally from Lille. Nicholas worked first with his father and is believed to have set up on his own in St Annes, Blackfriars in 1593. He died of the plague on 17 September 1603.
The earliest recorded English domestic clocks were mainly made by Huguenot emigrants from Flanders and all known examples date from post 1575. There are perhaps only fifteen or sixteen pre-pendulum English spring clocks known to survive, like the Cummer Vallin, most have had an element of restoration and some are missing their original movements altogether. A number of these surviving clocks were made by Nicholas Vallin and the earliest known English clock with a carillon, dated 1598, is also by him, formerly part of the Ilbert Collection, it can be found now in the British Museum.
There are only three recorded square table clock by Nicholas Vallin, each of very closely related design:
- Horizontal square table clock, The Museum of Horology, La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland.Illustrated Dawson, Drover and Parkes, Early English Clocks, Woodbridge, 1982, p. 25, pls. 16- 18 and Alan Lloyd, The Collector’s Dictionary of Clocks, New Jersey 1964, p.182, fig. 463.
- Horizontal square table clock, The Portland Collection, exhibited at the Harley Gallery, Welbeck, Nottinghamshire.
- Horizontal square table clock, formerly exhibited in The Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens, Jacksonville, Florida.
There are numerous similarities between the Portland, La Chaux-de-Fonds and Cummer clocks. All have superb and related engraving to the sides, including geometric bands above arcaded courtyard scenes in perspective.
The use of a windmill on one panel is particularly interesting; there were a number of windmills surrounding London at this time but most were located well outside the City in the environs of Acton, Barnes, Battersea, Blackheath, Chiswick, Finchley, Fulham, Hampstead, Harrow, Richmond, Romford and Rotherhithe. Others had been established in Clerkenwell, Holborn, Kensington (Hyde Park), Mayfair, Newington, Soho, Southwark, Hanover Square, St. James, Westminster and Whitechapel. However it may be relevant that two new windmills were built in the City in 1596; one was at Queenhithe by the river, while the other was erected near Vallin’s workshop in Blackfriars and perhaps this new windmill could have been inspiration for one of the panel scenes?
The upper, top-plate sections all have engraved fan spandrels and similar engraving to the dial centres. The chapter ring of the Portland clock is similarly engraved with Roman chapters and flowerhead half hour markers and an inner 24-hour ring, while the La Chaux-de-Fonds Vallin is recorded as having a later dial. The base plates to all the clocks have square and circular line engraved borders and all are signed within similar engraved shield cartouches, as does a Vallin clock currently on private loan to the British Museum.
A very similarly engraved dial centre may be seen on a watch by Gylles van Ghele dated 1589, see David Thompson, Watches, British Museum Press, London 2008, p. 21. While the dial centre and chapter ring on an unsigned spring clock in the British Museum is also similar and illustrated in Dawson, Drover and Parkes, Early English Clocks, Woodbridge, 1982, p. 31, pl. 28.
In addition, there are only seven other spring clocks by Vallin known:
- Vertical table clock case dated 1600 (later dial and movement), The British Museum, London
- Vertical table clock case (movement by Bartholomew Newsam), The British Museum, London
- Small drum clock with astronomical indications, The Science Museum, London.
- Small drum clock (later case) with astronomical indications, formerly exhibited in The Time Museum, Rockford Illinois, now in a private collection.
- Small drum timepiece, The Banff Museum, Banff, Aberdeenshire
- Small drum striking clock with alarm, illustrated Dawson, Drover & Parkes, Early English Clocks, Woodbridge, 1982.
- Monstrance clock, formerly a drum table clock, on loan to The British Museum, London, private collection.