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Exhibit № 14: Joseph Knibb, London. Circa 1674

Exhibit № 14: Joseph Knibb, London. Circa 1674

A very fine and rare Charles II Dutch striking ebony veneered Phase I table clock

£175,000


Height

16¼ inches (412 mm) to top of the handle

Case

The archetypal Knibb Phase I case, ebony veneered onto an oak carcass, and surmounted by Knibb’s early gilt-brass faceted cranked handle with folded flat-section pommels, to the plain cushion moulded dome top with early winged cherub dome mount to the front, flanked by four turned brass ball finials, above the quintessential Knibb flat-topped upper cornice moulding. The top rail of the front door is inset with a pierced ebony sound fret, flanked by Knibb’s early foliate scroll escutcheons, the left pieced for a key. The side apertures are glazed, all above the typical moulded base and standing, correctly, on long-neck brass bun feet.

Dial

The 8¼ inch (209 mm) square, mercury fire-gilded, brass dial, signed Joseph Knibb Londini Fecit along the lower edge, between the gilded and chased winged cherub corner spandrels, which are of Knibbs’ early design. The narrow silvered Roman hour chapter ring with fleur-de-lys half-hour marks and Arabic minutes within the division ring. The very fine matting with two winding holes and inset with a date square above VI, classic early Knibb, sculpted blued steel hands. Fixed into the case with typical dial turns and with four latched dial feet to the movement.

Movement

The substantial movement held by six latched finned baluster pillars, with twin gut line fusees and spring barrels. The going train with restored tic-tac escapement and short bob pendulum. The strike train with an internal countwheel governing the hour and half-hour strike via a double-sided pinwheel, with hammer linkages to; the hour hammer struck on the larger bell; and the half-hour hammer struck on the smaller bell. The backplate retains its original fire-gilding and the engraving, inspired and possibly executed by Wenceslaus Hollar (1607-1677, see following), has two crossed stems of foliage, each issuing open and closed flower heads, above the large typical early signature Joseph Knibb Londini Fecit in fine cursive script in an arc, curving over a stylised leaping ‘royal’ sturgeon.

Duration

8 days

Provenance

Sotheby’s, 11 Mar. 2002, lot 183, sold for £71,456;

The John C Taylor Collection, inventory no.86

Literature

Huygen’s Legacy, 2004, p.172-175;

Garnier & Hollis, Innovation and collaboration, 2018, p.256-257

Escapement

Knife-edge tic-tac with short bob pendulum

Strike Type

Dutch, hour and half-hour, inside countwheel striking with double-sided pinwheel

Exhibited

2004, Palais Het Loo Holland, Huygens’ Legacy, exhibit no.46;

2018, London, Innovation & Collaboration, exhibit no.102

Joseph Knibb’s Phase I spring clocks were the first made to his own specific design and were all probably produced within eight years of him setting up his business in London in circa 1670: perhaps between c.1672 (see inventory no.32 from this collection) and c.1678. All share a very similar case style, but they are often mechanically quite different, displaying Knibb’s renowned array of strike variations, in this instance Dutch striking. By the latter part of the 1670s, Knibb started to evolve his spring clocks making them smaller; the first Phase II example was dated 1677 (also in this collection, inventory no.145), and marked a shift away from this earlier style. Fewer than 20 Phase I table clocks are currently recorded and, like this superb example, the majority are ebony veneered onto an oak carcass, but unlike his later Phase II and III designs, these clocks also retain bun feet. Meanwhile, the original fire-gilding to the present backplate is particularly beautiful, but also a costly and early attribute, although the first of Knibb’s Phase II spring clocks retain this expensive feature, by the late 1670s, and the introduction of his Phase III clocks, Knibb had essentially dispensed with it.

The Tic-tac Escapement is a type of recoil escapement found on early clocks less than a decade after the introduction of the pendulum from a variety of makers, but it is perhaps most well known on clocks by the Knibb family, as shown on the current example. When the anchor escapement was introduced, with its consequential improvements in timekeeping, it was natural that clockmakers would want to apply a similar escapement to their spring clocks. Because of their high value at this time, owners would frequently move them from room to room and the wide arc of the verge pendulum was tolerant to this. A heavy anchor escapement would have been prone to damage on the pendulum suspension and, as a consequence of the narrow arc of swing, required setting up on a perfectly level surface.

It seems the tic-tac was an early attempt to overcome these difficulties and ape the improved timekeeping of the anchor escapement. The pallet arbor is normally supported at the back by a knife- edge and the escape wheel is mounted vertically with the pallets embracing just two teeth. This produces the required wide arc of pendulum swing to be able to move the clock around, but the safety margin of extra swing is greatly reduced. While the verge will operate in spite of considerable wear, the tic-tac needs to be in good condition. The greater part of the impulse is delivered on exit and, when slightly worn, the escape teeth will often foul on the entry pallet and stop the movement altogether, this may have caused problems for the early clockmakers and is likely the reason for its limited use.

 

The backplate decoration

In medieval Europe, sturgeon meat and roe (caviar) was one of the most prestigious delicacies, and at least half a dozen contemporary recipes survive for turning veal into imitation sturgeon for the wealthy. Sturgeon were so rare in England that they were reserved as a ‘royal fish’ and when taken became the personal property of the monarch, recognised by statute in 1324 that is still in place today.

Sturgeon are anadromous fish, living in the sea but returning to spawn in the same fresh water river in which they were born. The strict statute meant that sturgeon were often left, allowing for the return of mature migratory fish; commonly growing beyond six foot, to as long as 14 foot, which could weigh in at more than 800 pounds. Over the 18th and 19th centuries, around 400 sturgeon were reported in British rivers, including the Thames.

Wenceslaus Hollar (1607-1677) was born in Prague on 13 July 1607, and died in London on the 28 March 1677. His family was ruined by the capture of Prague in the Thirty Years War, and, although originally destined for the law, Hollar was determined to become an artist.

By 1627 he was in Frankfurt, working for the etcher and engraver Matthäus Merian, later moving to Strasbourg, and then to Cologne in 1633. It was there that he attracted the attention of the famous English art collector Thomas Howard, 14th Earl of Arundel (1585-1646), then on an embassy to the imperial court. Hollar travelled with the Earl to Vienna and Prague finally arriving in England in 1637. Though he lived in the Earl’s household, he also worked for various publishers. For one bookseller he produced a view of Greenwich, nearly a yard long, but only received thirty shillings for the work, being paid just four pence an hour, his time measured apparently by an hourglass.

The Civil War caused Lord Arundel to leave England in 1642, so Hollar worked for the Duke of York, and took lodgings at Larkhall, near Stockwell. He served in a royalist regiment during the Civil War and was taken prisoner at the seige Basing House in 1643, Hollar was imprisoned with another engraver, William Faithorne, as well as the architect Inigo Jones and, perhaps critical to our horological story, his pupil John Webb, the designer of Ahasuerus Fromanteel’s first architectural clock cases. This placed Hollar within ‘Fromanteel’s circle’ and furthermore, Hollar’s main English patron was the grandfather of Henry Howard, 6th Duke of Norfolk and Earl of Arundel (1628–1684), who commissioned the Norfolk Fromanteel (inventory no.41), the earliest recorded complete longcase clock.

On release Hollar initially rejoined Lord Arundel in Antwerp, where he stayed for eight years producing some of his finest work. In 1652 he retuned to London and shared lodgings for a time with his former prison mate, Faithorne, near Temple Bar. He illustrated several books and also worked for Elias Ashmole, whose cabinet of curiosities formed the basis of the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford. Hollar’s fortunes did not fundamentally improve and his employers, probably by this time including Fromanteel and Samuel Knibb, continued to pay low prices for his excellent work. The Restoration did not improve his position, and in the great plague he lost his son, a promising young artist. After the Great Fire of 1666 he produced his famous Views of London.

In 1668 the king sent Hollar to English Tangier (1661-1684) to draw the town and its forts. On his return to England, he etched the battle scene in which the ship he came back on, the Mary Rose, successfully fought against seven Algerian pirate men-of-war. He also produced the large plate of Edinburgh (dated 1670) that is widely regarded as one of the greatest of his works. From this time on, he appears to have started his employment on horological backplates for Samuel Knibb’s nephew, Joseph; these are some of the first fully engraved backplates and Hollar’s style is recognisable on almost every Phase I spring clock known. It may be significant that Hollar’s death in 1677 also coincided with Knibb’s shift away from larger Phase I spring clocks to the smaller Phase II and III examples, which no longer show his influence.

Hollar died in extreme poverty, his last recorded words being a request to the bailiffs that they would not carry away the bed on which he was dying. Hollar was one of the finest master etchers of the 17th Century and worked on a wide variety of subjects producing some 2,740 plates including views, portraits, ships, religious subjects, heraldic subjects, landscapes, and still lifes in a hundred different forms.

 

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Product Description

Joseph Knibb’s Phase I spring clocks were the first made to his own specific design and were all probably produced within eight years of him setting up his business in London in circa 1670: perhaps between c.1672 (see inventory no.32 from this collection) and c.1678. All share a very similar case style, but they are often mechanically quite different, displaying Knibb’s renowned array of strike variations, in this instance Dutch striking. By the latter part of the 1670s, Knibb started to evolve his spring clocks making them smaller; the first Phase II example was dated 1677 (also in this collection, inventory no.145), and marked a shift away from this earlier style. Fewer than 20 Phase I table clocks are currently recorded and, like this superb example, the majority are ebony veneered onto an oak carcass, but unlike his later Phase II and III designs, these clocks also retain bun feet. Meanwhile, the original fire-gilding to the present backplate is particularly beautiful, but also a costly and early attribute, although the first of Knibb’s Phase II spring clocks retain this expensive feature, by the late 1670s, and the introduction of his Phase III clocks, Knibb had essentially dispensed with it.

The Tic-tac Escapement is a type of recoil escapement found on early clocks less than a decade after the introduction of the pendulum from a variety of makers, but it is perhaps most well known on clocks by the Knibb family, as shown on the current example. When the anchor escapement was introduced, with its consequential improvements in timekeeping, it was natural that clockmakers would want to apply a similar escapement to their spring clocks. Because of their high value at this time, owners would frequently move them from room to room and the wide arc of the verge pendulum was tolerant to this. A heavy anchor escapement would have been prone to damage on the pendulum suspension and, as a consequence of the narrow arc of swing, required setting up on a perfectly level surface.

It seems the tic-tac was an early attempt to overcome these difficulties and ape the improved timekeeping of the anchor escapement. The pallet arbor is normally supported at the back by a knife- edge and the escape wheel is mounted vertically with the pallets embracing just two teeth. This produces the required wide arc of pendulum swing to be able to move the clock around, but the safety margin of extra swing is greatly reduced. While the verge will operate in spite of considerable wear, the tic-tac needs to be in good condition. The greater part of the impulse is delivered on exit and, when slightly worn, the escape teeth will often foul on the entry pallet and stop the movement altogether, this may have caused problems for the early clockmakers and is likely the reason for its limited use.

 

The backplate decoration

In medieval Europe, sturgeon meat and roe (caviar) was one of the most prestigious delicacies, and at least half a dozen contemporary recipes survive for turning veal into imitation sturgeon for the wealthy. Sturgeon were so rare in England that they were reserved as a ‘royal fish’ and when taken became the personal property of the monarch, recognised by statute in 1324 that is still in place today.

Sturgeon are anadromous fish, living in the sea but returning to spawn in the same fresh water river in which they were born. The strict statute meant that sturgeon were often left, allowing for the return of mature migratory fish; commonly growing beyond six foot, to as long as 14 foot, which could weigh in at more than 800 pounds. Over the 18th and 19th centuries, around 400 sturgeon were reported in British rivers, including the Thames.

Wenceslaus Hollar (1607-1677) was born in Prague on 13 July 1607, and died in London on the 28 March 1677. His family was ruined by the capture of Prague in the Thirty Years War, and, although originally destined for the law, Hollar was determined to become an artist.

By 1627 he was in Frankfurt, working for the etcher and engraver Matthäus Merian, later moving to Strasbourg, and then to Cologne in 1633. It was there that he attracted the attention of the famous English art collector Thomas Howard, 14th Earl of Arundel (1585-1646), then on an embassy to the imperial court. Hollar travelled with the Earl to Vienna and Prague finally arriving in England in 1637. Though he lived in the Earl’s household, he also worked for various publishers. For one bookseller he produced a view of Greenwich, nearly a yard long, but only received thirty shillings for the work, being paid just four pence an hour, his time measured apparently by an hourglass.

The Civil War caused Lord Arundel to leave England in 1642, so Hollar worked for the Duke of York, and took lodgings at Larkhall, near Stockwell. He served in a royalist regiment during the Civil War and was taken prisoner at the seige Basing House in 1643, Hollar was imprisoned with another engraver, William Faithorne, as well as the architect Inigo Jones and, perhaps critical to our horological story, his pupil John Webb, the designer of Ahasuerus Fromanteel’s first architectural clock cases. This placed Hollar within ‘Fromanteel’s circle’ and furthermore, Hollar’s main English patron was the grandfather of Henry Howard, 6th Duke of Norfolk and Earl of Arundel (1628–1684), who commissioned the Norfolk Fromanteel (inventory no.41), the earliest recorded complete longcase clock.

On release Hollar initially rejoined Lord Arundel in Antwerp, where he stayed for eight years producing some of his finest work. In 1652 he retuned to London and shared lodgings for a time with his former prison mate, Faithorne, near Temple Bar. He illustrated several books and also worked for Elias Ashmole, whose cabinet of curiosities formed the basis of the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford. Hollar’s fortunes did not fundamentally improve and his employers, probably by this time including Fromanteel and Samuel Knibb, continued to pay low prices for his excellent work. The Restoration did not improve his position, and in the great plague he lost his son, a promising young artist. After the Great Fire of 1666 he produced his famous Views of London.

In 1668 the king sent Hollar to English Tangier (1661-1684) to draw the town and its forts. On his return to England, he etched the battle scene in which the ship he came back on, the Mary Rose, successfully fought against seven Algerian pirate men-of-war. He also produced the large plate of Edinburgh (dated 1670) that is widely regarded as one of the greatest of his works. From this time on, he appears to have started his employment on horological backplates for Samuel Knibb’s nephew, Joseph; these are some of the first fully engraved backplates and Hollar’s style is recognisable on almost every Phase I spring clock known. It may be significant that Hollar’s death in 1677 also coincided with Knibb’s shift away from larger Phase I spring clocks to the smaller Phase II and III examples, which no longer show his influence.

Hollar died in extreme poverty, his last recorded words being a request to the bailiffs that they would not carry away the bed on which he was dying. Hollar was one of the finest master etchers of the 17th Century and worked on a wide variety of subjects producing some 2,740 plates including views, portraits, ships, religious subjects, heraldic subjects, landscapes, and still lifes in a hundred different forms.

 

Additional information

Dimensions 5827373 cm