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Exhibit № 20: The Guy Boney Knibb. Circa 1680

Exhibit № 20: The Guy Boney Knibb. Circa 1680

An exceedingly fine Charles II olivewood oyster and marquetry panelled three-train quarter striking longcase clock with original cresting, by John Knibb, Oxford

£250,000


Height

6 feet 9 inches (2057 mm)

Case

The case veneered in olivewood and olivewood oysters with contrasting ebony mouldings and inlaid with floral marquetry panels on a cariniana carcass. The rising hood has a fine original carved and gilded floral scroll cresting with central gilt-arcaded pedestal capped by three gilt-wood finials.  The ebonised cornice above a sound-fret frieze, and supported by matching ebonised three-quarter Solomonic columns with integral turned capitals and bases, flanking the dial aperture and matching quarter columns behind the glazed side apertures. The dial aperture with small ebony mouldings, decorated with a gold pattern, reflecting similar gilt patterning on the lower ebony cornice moulding above. All resting on convex throat mouldings, above the long trunk door framed by D-end ebonised mouldings, with floral and green stained bone foliate quadrants in the corners and a break arch marquetry panel of flowers and foliage in a vase above the complementary lower octagonal panel. The olivewood base with a conforming octagonal floral panel and matching corners. The whole case resting on ebonised bun feet.

Dial

The 9½ inch square fire-gilded brass dial, with winged cherub head corner spandrels within a line border, interrupted by the signature Johannes Knibb Oxon fecit along the lower edge. The narrow silvered chapter with inner quarter division ring and Roman hours with fleur-de-lys half-hour marks between, the Arabic minutes numbered every 5 within the minute division ring. The finely matted and gilded dial centre with a large slender seconds ring below XII, with every 5 seconds in Arabic numerals outside the divisions, the facetted calendar aperture above VI and three shuttered winding holes, with well pierced and sculpted blued steel ‘Oxford’ hands. The dial fixed with four latched dial feet.

Movement

The substantial rectangular movement plates held by ten fine knopped pillars, latched to the triple-split frontplate, each split section planted with the individual four-wheel trains; the central going with bolt-and-shutter maintaining power to the anchor escapement, with corresponding pallet cut-out in the backplate, the pallet-arbor with brass crutch, and cocked for the pendulum suspension; the hour strike train on the left (IX) side governed by a solid outside countwheel to the barrel arbor and striking on the large bell above; the quarter train on the right (III) side governed by a small external countwheel to strike the three quarters on the smaller bell above.

Duration

8 days

Provenance

Ronald A Lee 1955;

Briggs of Maidenhead 1959, taken to Grosvenor House Antiques Fair, where first seen by Guy Boney as a schoolboy;

Phillips, 12 March 1996, lot no.195, sold to Anthony Woodburn;

The Guy Boney collection, until sold in 2002 for £191,000;

The John C Taylor Collection, inventory no.101

Literature

Five Centuries of British Timekeeping, 1955, p.26, RA Lee advert;

Bentley, The Plain Man’s guide to Antique Clocks, 1963, p.56, pl.VI;

RA Lee, The Knibb Family Clockmakers, 1964, pl.21 & 44;

Bentley, ‘That Famous Pendulum Maker, Knibb’, Antique Collector, Jun 1969, p.93 (illus.);

Dawson, Drover and Parkes, Early English Clocks, 1982, p.252-3, pl.339

Horological Masterworks, Oxford, 2003, p.146-149;

Huygens’ Legacy, Holland, 2004, p.164-165;

Bowett, Woods in British Furniture Making 1400-1900, 2012, p.54 (illus.)

Garnier & Hollis, Innovation & Collaboration, 2018, p.312-315

Escapement

Anchor with one-second pendulum

Strike Type

Countwheel quarters and hours

Exhibited

2003, Horological Masterworks, Oxford Museum for the History of Science, and the Walker Gallery, Liverpool, exhibit no.31

2004, Palais Het Loo, Holland, Huygens’ Legacy, exhibit no.60

2018, London, Innovation & Collaboration, exhibit no.92

This well-documented clock is one of the finest and most complete Knibb longcase that we have handled. By John and signed for Oxford, it is in an extraordinary state of preservation, unusually retaining its original cresting, it is also reassuringly constructed on a cariniana wood carcass, for which a small proportion of the Knibb brothers’ cases are so famed. Although technically provincial, this superb and well-known longcase has been consistently dated at c.1680. However, the overall bearing, case proportions and dial style arguably hint at a clock from the latter 1670s: the signature is in Latin in early cursive script, an interrupted single line frames the dial, the chapter ring is narrow, the spandrels are early, while the ‘Oxford’ hands are likewise of the Knibb brothers’ earlier form. Furthermore, with direct links to, and cooperation with, his brother Joseph’s business in London, John Knibb’s output was not behind the times, but rathermore concurrent with the latest modes in use by his contemporaries in the capital.

The Knibb family’s ingenuity for complex countwheel striking is epitomised on this three-train quarter striking example. More than any other makers, Joseph and John offered an intriguing array of different strike options within their clocks; most were introduced prior to the general uptake of rack-and-snail striking and were governed by countwheels. They approached their clock construction with a view to simplicity and lightness of touch, so that their clocks have a delicacy and fineness of construction that served to reduce inertia and friction. The duration of the movement dictates where the hour countwheel is planted but it is always on an arbor making a full rotation every twelve hours. On 8-day clocks such as this, it is usually attached directly to the winding barrel arbor, while on their longer duration clocks it will usually be on the second or pinwheel arbor.

The Knibb’s countwheel strike systems can be subdivided into those using a single countwheel and strike train and those using two interconnected countwheels on two separate (hour and quarter) strike trains, as follows:

Single countwheel strike train:

Hour striking

Roman striking

Dutch striking, hour and half-hour

Hour and quarter striking

Two countwheels with two strike trains:

Hour and quarter striking (as seen here in this example)

Grande Sonnerie striking without the quarters on the hour

Double-six Grande Sonnerie striking

Full Grande Sonnerie striking

 

The use of Cariniana wood in English clock cases (c.1665-c.1685)

RA Lee was the first to document the use of cariniana for carcass wood in English clocks (The Knibb Family, Clockmakers, 1964) and it is not apparently used in any other contemporary furniture. There are less than 15 clock cases currently known, the majority of which are associated with the Knibb family (Joseph, John and Peter) and made between c.1675 and c.1685, when supply of timber presumably ran out. All of the Knibb examples are longcase clocks, with the exception of a walnut-veneered Phase I spring timepiece of c.1675, which was perhaps their first cariniana carcassed clock.

However, the earliest two recorded clock cases known to use cariniana were made prior to Joseph Knibb’s arrival in London in c.1670/1: an ebony-veneered table clock by Simon Bartram of c.1659 (but probably not finished until c.1665), and a walnut-veneered longcase by Hilkiah Bedford of c.1670 (both from this collection inventory nos. 84 and 57 respectively). Its limited usage might suggest these two cases were made by the same cabinetmaker, who Joseph Knibb perhaps subsequently adopted after his arrival in London. In possible endorsement of this, the Bartram case utilises a flat-topped cornice and moulded base that would later become archetypal on Knibb’s Phase I, II and III spring clock cases (see exhibit nos. 14, 17 and 21).

There are ten or more species of cariniana indigenous to an area ranging from the Venezuelan coast, through Colombia, down to central Brazil. The trees reach up to 125 feet in height and 4 feet in diameter and, from a practical point of view, the benefit of cariniana lies in its generally straight and open grain, making it a dull veneer surface wood but a very stable base carcass, and a perfect alternative to locally grown oak or pine. The Bartram came to light after Lee’s 1964 book, and its early date places it within the timespan of the short-lived colony of Willoughbyland (1651-1667). Situated on the Suriname river on the Caribbean coast of South America, Willoughbyland was the only English colony in which cariniana wood was indigenous. To set this in context, the Navigation Act of 1651 had ensured that all trade between England and its colonies was restricted to English or colonial shipping, while other European powers imposed similar rules to their own colonies – so that it was not easy for London craftsmen to obtain raw materials from parts of the world not within England’s direct control. Other woods from the region, most notably exotic snakewood (piratinera guianensis), enjoyed a similarly brief usage amongst contemporary London furniture makers, before the Dutch conquest in 1667 put an end to the direct import of these woods altogether.

The rather select usage and relatively brief timespan during which the wood was employed (c.1665-c.1685) not only hints at a common casemaker, but also to a limited supply of the timber. It has been said that in ‘most cases’ the wood shows signs of having been re-used, proposing that the supply of timber may have come from imported packing cases, but inspection of the six examples in this collection (one table clock, and five longcases) does not seem to corroborate that theory. Lee suggested that trunks of trees came in as ballast in semi-laden ships returning from delivering troops and arms to the West Indies. However, if an original Willoughbyland provenance is considered, there were bountiful quantities of all types of valuable goods being exported from the region (see Willoughbyland on p.136 of this catalogue), which might have negated the need for ballast. Alternatively, perhaps a single load of plentiful cariniana was logged, processed and sent to test the market in London, the relatively small number of planks would have taken up little space in between the valuable cargo. Arguably, a testing of the market might have taken place relatively early in the colony’s foundation and, without a decorative use, the wood may not have garnered much interest. Possibly a few years later this cabinetmaker purchased the ‘one-off’ shipment at a preferential rate, which he then first employed in the table clock case for Bartram, perhaps in c.1665.

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Product Description

This well-documented clock is one of the finest and most complete Knibb longcase that we have handled. By John and signed for Oxford, it is in an extraordinary state of preservation, unusually retaining its original cresting, it is also reassuringly constructed on a cariniana wood carcass, for which a small proportion of the Knibb brothers’ cases are so famed. Although technically provincial, this superb and well-known longcase has been consistently dated at c.1680. However, the overall bearing, case proportions and dial style arguably hint at a clock from the latter 1670s: the signature is in Latin in early cursive script, an interrupted single line frames the dial, the chapter ring is narrow, the spandrels are early, while the ‘Oxford’ hands are likewise of the Knibb brothers’ earlier form. Furthermore, with direct links to, and cooperation with, his brother Joseph’s business in London, John Knibb’s output was not behind the times, but rathermore concurrent with the latest modes in use by his contemporaries in the capital.

The Knibb family’s ingenuity for complex countwheel striking is epitomised on this three-train quarter striking example. More than any other makers, Joseph and John offered an intriguing array of different strike options within their clocks; most were introduced prior to the general uptake of rack-and-snail striking and were governed by countwheels. They approached their clock construction with a view to simplicity and lightness of touch, so that their clocks have a delicacy and fineness of construction that served to reduce inertia and friction. The duration of the movement dictates where the hour countwheel is planted but it is always on an arbor making a full rotation every twelve hours. On 8-day clocks such as this, it is usually attached directly to the winding barrel arbor, while on their longer duration clocks it will usually be on the second or pinwheel arbor.

The Knibb’s countwheel strike systems can be subdivided into those using a single countwheel and strike train and those using two interconnected countwheels on two separate (hour and quarter) strike trains, as follows:

Single countwheel strike train:

Hour striking

Roman striking

Dutch striking, hour and half-hour

Hour and quarter striking

Two countwheels with two strike trains:

Hour and quarter striking (as seen here in this example)

Grande Sonnerie striking without the quarters on the hour

Double-six Grande Sonnerie striking

Full Grande Sonnerie striking

 

The use of Cariniana wood in English clock cases (c.1665-c.1685)

RA Lee was the first to document the use of cariniana for carcass wood in English clocks (The Knibb Family, Clockmakers, 1964) and it is not apparently used in any other contemporary furniture. There are less than 15 clock cases currently known, the majority of which are associated with the Knibb family (Joseph, John and Peter) and made between c.1675 and c.1685, when supply of timber presumably ran out. All of the Knibb examples are longcase clocks, with the exception of a walnut-veneered Phase I spring timepiece of c.1675, which was perhaps their first cariniana carcassed clock.

However, the earliest two recorded clock cases known to use cariniana were made prior to Joseph Knibb’s arrival in London in c.1670/1: an ebony-veneered table clock by Simon Bartram of c.1659 (but probably not finished until c.1665), and a walnut-veneered longcase by Hilkiah Bedford of c.1670 (both from this collection inventory nos. 84 and 57 respectively). Its limited usage might suggest these two cases were made by the same cabinetmaker, who Joseph Knibb perhaps subsequently adopted after his arrival in London. In possible endorsement of this, the Bartram case utilises a flat-topped cornice and moulded base that would later become archetypal on Knibb’s Phase I, II and III spring clock cases (see exhibit nos. 14, 17 and 21).

There are ten or more species of cariniana indigenous to an area ranging from the Venezuelan coast, through Colombia, down to central Brazil. The trees reach up to 125 feet in height and 4 feet in diameter and, from a practical point of view, the benefit of cariniana lies in its generally straight and open grain, making it a dull veneer surface wood but a very stable base carcass, and a perfect alternative to locally grown oak or pine. The Bartram came to light after Lee’s 1964 book, and its early date places it within the timespan of the short-lived colony of Willoughbyland (1651-1667). Situated on the Suriname river on the Caribbean coast of South America, Willoughbyland was the only English colony in which cariniana wood was indigenous. To set this in context, the Navigation Act of 1651 had ensured that all trade between England and its colonies was restricted to English or colonial shipping, while other European powers imposed similar rules to their own colonies – so that it was not easy for London craftsmen to obtain raw materials from parts of the world not within England’s direct control. Other woods from the region, most notably exotic snakewood (piratinera guianensis), enjoyed a similarly brief usage amongst contemporary London furniture makers, before the Dutch conquest in 1667 put an end to the direct import of these woods altogether.

The rather select usage and relatively brief timespan during which the wood was employed (c.1665-c.1685) not only hints at a common casemaker, but also to a limited supply of the timber. It has been said that in ‘most cases’ the wood shows signs of having been re-used, proposing that the supply of timber may have come from imported packing cases, but inspection of the six examples in this collection (one table clock, and five longcases) does not seem to corroborate that theory. Lee suggested that trunks of trees came in as ballast in semi-laden ships returning from delivering troops and arms to the West Indies. However, if an original Willoughbyland provenance is considered, there were bountiful quantities of all types of valuable goods being exported from the region (see Willoughbyland on p.136 of this catalogue), which might have negated the need for ballast. Alternatively, perhaps a single load of plentiful cariniana was logged, processed and sent to test the market in London, the relatively small number of planks would have taken up little space in between the valuable cargo. Arguably, a testing of the market might have taken place relatively early in the colony’s foundation and, without a decorative use, the wood may not have garnered much interest. Possibly a few years later this cabinetmaker purchased the ‘one-off’ shipment at a preferential rate, which he then first employed in the table clock case for Bartram, perhaps in c.1665.

Additional information

Dimensions 5827373 cm