+44 (0) 1962 844443|info@cartermarsh.com

Exhibit № 31. Queen Mary’s ‘Tortoise Shell’ Tompion, Circa 1693

Exhibit № 31. Queen Mary’s ‘Tortoise Shell’ Tompion, Circa 1693

A unique and highly important William & Mary pewter and brass inlaid red turtleshell miniature striking spring clock of royal provenance

£950,000


Height

11¾ inches (298 mm)

Case

The case of tête de poupée form comprising an oak carcass veneered with red turtleshell inlaid with brass and pewter in formal strapwork and foliate panels in the Marotesque style with a mask of Apollo above the dial and bellflowers around the dial, surmounted and flanked by gilt-brass finials, the scroll base on the original gilt-brass plate, but now supported on a later turtleshell, pewter strung, shaped plinth. Solid brass rear door attributed to Graver 155 with profuse geometric foliate engraving and centred by an engraved wheat-ear oval.

Dial

The 4½ inch (114 mm) diameter visible fire-gilt brass dial signed Tho Tompion Londini Fecit within the matted centre with high position winding holes and mock pendulum aperture, the Roman chapter ring typically engraved with sword-hilt half-hour marks and Arabic minutes with cross half-quarters, outside the minute divisions. The front door opening to reveal the full cartouche-shaped fire-gilded dial plate, which is embellished with foliate engraving by Graver 155 (see Thomas Tompion 300 Years, p.177), with rise-and-fall pendulum regulation dial, marked for 0-60 in the arch, and centred by a Tudor rose.

Movement

The twin fusee movement, specially commissioned for this case with uniquely shaped plates, six fully latched baluster pillars with twin gut fusees and spring barrels; the going train with pivoted verge escapement and worm-driven rise-and-fall pendulum regulation behind the dial plate, with short brass rod pendulum and screw-adjusted lenticular bob; the strike train, governed by a rack and snail, striking and trip repeating on the bell mounted above. The very finely engraved back plate by Graver 155, with scrolling foliage and swags of bellflowers, signed Tho: Tompion LONDINI Fecit in a wheatear oval reserve to the lower centre.

Duration

8 days

Provenance

Pivoted verge with worm-gear operated regulation

Literature

A Loan Exhibition of Old English Clocks entirely the work of and signed by THO: TOMPION, catalogue, 22-28 November, 1933;
Dawson, Drover & Parkes, Early English Clocks , p.520, col. pl.32, p.531, pl.784-5, p.534-5, pl.786-90;
Huygens’ Legacy, 2004, (illus.) p.226-9;
Evans, Tompion at the Dial and Three Crowns, AHS, 2006, listed p.70;
Evans, Carter & Wright, Thomas Tompion 300 Years, 2013, (illus.) p.396-9;
Garnier & Hollis, Innovation & Collaboration, 2018, (illus.) p.350-1.

Escapement

Pivoted verge with worm-gear operated regulation

Strike Type

Hour striking with trip repeat

Exhibited

1933, 22-28 November, London, Royal Exchange Tompion Loan Exhibition;
2004, Holland, Paleis Het Loo, Huygens’ Legacy, exhibit no.79;
2014, Cambridge, Corpus Christi Exhibition;
2014, London, Guildhall Library, Worshipful Company of Clockmakers Exhibition;
2018, London, Innovation & Collaboration, exhibit no.107.

This royal clock has a superb French case housing a unique striking clock specially commissioned from Tompion, who designed and made the movement and dial specially to fit, as well as installing an engraved gilt-brass back door. The case was possibly ordered from the Paris master, André-Charles Boulle (1642-1732), who became the most famous French cabinetmaker and the preeminent artist in the field of marquetry. Boulle was the most remarkable of all French cabinetmakers and Jean-Baptiste Colbert (1619-1683) recommended him to Louis XIV of France, the Sun King (1638–1715), as the most skilled craftsman in his profession. Over the centuries since his death, his name and that of his family, has become associated with the art he perfected, the inlay of brass and pewter into ebony and turtleshell, so much so that it has become known simply as Boulle work.

In the respect that this case is of French manufacture, it is not alone in Tompion’s oeuvre, and it is clear that while relatively austere ebony English cases may not have been to every wealthy French aristocrat’s taste, Tompion’s reputation was such that, as far as his movements were concerned, he was considered without equal. As early as 1680, in surviving correspondence between the Parisian biblical scholar, Nicolas Toinard (1628-1706), and the English philosopher, John Locke (1632-1704), Tompion is described as the clockmaker most recommended in England and, by then, London was recognised as producing the finest horological work in the world. Perhaps, it is therefore unsurprising that even now, Tompion’s clocks are occasionally resurfacing in France, some with Tompion’s standard cases, but recently two additional clocks have been found originally housed in French made cases, like Queen Mary’s Tortoiseshell Tompion. The first example is timepiece movement no.70, started in c.1685 but held in stock and only finished in c1703-5, with a non-standard shallow arched dial. The second, no.401, is a standard striking and repeating movement finished concurrently in c.1704, with a cartouche-shaped dial to fit the French case, and it remains with the aristocratic French family for which it may have been originally made. Interestingly, both of these examples share the same sequence of manufacture as Queen Mary’s Tortoiseshell clock; in that the dials were produced especially to fit existing French cases, rather than the other way around; but, in contrast to Queen Mary’s bespoke movement, both of those movements are standard Tompion productions that have been adapted.

Some accounts survive pertaining to items supplied by Tompion to William and Mary, but on the evidence of known royal clocks made during their reign, several more accounts remain to be discovered. In October 1689, bills were submitted for work carried out at Whitehall, but no Tompion payments or bills dating to the period July 1690 to May 1693 are currently recorded, they are believed to exist but they have not as yet been traced. However, we are fortunate that a surviving bill covers the period May 1693 to October 1694, charging for items supplied to, and repairs carried out for, Queen Mary (William III is not mentioned):

1693 Delivered for Her Maj[est]ie Service To The
Watchmaker Rt Honble the Countess of Darby by Thomas Tompion
Thos Tompion
May ye 8th A Gold Watch at twentythree p 13s 23:13:0
Augt 16 A Spring Clock in a Tortoise Shell Case 40:00:0
March ye 28 A large Month Clock a fine walnut tree
1694 Case wth ye Diall plate Capitall & bases Gilt 25:0:0
Septembr 26 for Cleaning & Mending ye Queens quarter
repeating spring Clock 1:5:0
Octobr ye 15th for Cleaneing & Mending the Queens repeating
watch & a new glass & Lineing the Case 0:15:0
_____
90:13:0
Desembr ye The p
[ar]ticullers Above Mentioned Amounting to ye Sume of
18th Ninty pounds Thirteen Shillings hath been received
for Her Majtie us p me
[signed] EDerby.

The timepiece watch has not been identified and nor has the longcase clock, but the Spring Clock in a Tortoise Shell Case is almost certainly this example, sometimes also known as ‘The Boulle Tompion’. On Tuesday 16th May 1693, exactly three months before the supply of this clock, Hooke had noted in his diary Cald at Tompions: draught of Q.Marys clock, a reference, presumably, to a design he had examined. One month later on 16th June he Cald at Tompion, saw K and Q clocks – the King’s and Queen’s clocks. There is little doubt that the ‘K’ clock to which Hooke referred can be identified as the metal-cased travelling-clock with dual-control escapement – balance or pendulum, bearing William’s crowned cypher on the dome, and signed and dated 1693 on the back plate. Earlier in the year, on 15th February 1693 Hooke had told Tompion the way for the ballance and pendulum of coach watch. It was possibly ordered as William’s campaign clock. It is tempting to suppose that the ‘Q’ clock was similarly metal-cased and of comparable complexity, but taking into account the fact that Mary is known to have received the tortoiseshell cased clock exactly two months after Hooke’s second note it is possible he had seen the movement of this clock, which was not a standard model, in plan and in the making. Though un-numbered, as was usual with his special productions, it has features which relate it to items in the numbered series: the subject matter used by Graver 155 on dial, backplate and rear-door; the chamfered cusped cocks and the square-ended mock-pendulum aperture. These features all suggest a date of c. 1692-3, and had it been given a serial number it would probably have been included somewhere between numbers 200 to 220. This may be lent credence by the way it was described in the bill simply as A Spring Clock in a Tortoise Shell Case which almost certainly means that it did not, in common with this clock, have quarter-repeating work, particularly as the September 26th repair for Cleaning & Mending ye Queens quarter repeating spring Clock gets a full description.

While this clock is accepted as the one billed for above, an alternative candidate might be advanced for the ‘Q’ clock, namely the miniature, ebony cased spring clock no.222 with silver mounts which is a close visual (if not mechanical) counterpart to the William III dual-control clock dated 1693. The clock’s serial number, 222, is comfortably close to the parameters postulated for this Boulle clock. Nevertheless, as the ‘Boulle Tompion’ is accepted as the 1693 invoiced Tortoise Shell clocksupplied to Queen Mary, it was re-named in the 2013 book, Thomas Tompion 300 Years, arguably more aptly, as Queen Mary’s Tortoiseshell Tompion.

This is a unique clock within Tompion’s known oeuvre, however the signature engraved within the dial matting is also found on the Powis and Ilbert longcases, as well as the miniature metal cased spring clock, the Lonsdale Tompion No.23.

Contact us about this item

Product Description

This royal clock has a superb French case housing a unique striking clock specially commissioned from Tompion, who designed and made the movement and dial specially to fit, as well as installing an engraved gilt-brass back door. The case was possibly ordered from the Paris master, André-Charles Boulle (1642-1732), who became the most famous French cabinetmaker and the preeminent artist in the field of marquetry. Boulle was the most remarkable of all French cabinetmakers and Jean-Baptiste Colbert (1619-1683) recommended him to Louis XIV of France, the Sun King (1638–1715), as the most skilled craftsman in his profession. Over the centuries since his death, his name and that of his family, has become associated with the art he perfected, the inlay of brass and pewter into ebony and turtleshell, so much so that it has become known simply as Boulle work.

In the respect that this case is of French manufacture, it is not alone in Tompion’s oeuvre, and it is clear that while relatively austere ebony English cases may not have been to every wealthy French aristocrat’s taste, Tompion’s reputation was such that, as far as his movements were concerned, he was considered without equal. As early as 1680, in surviving correspondence between the Parisian biblical scholar, Nicolas Toinard (1628-1706), and the English philosopher, John Locke (1632-1704), Tompion is described as the clockmaker most recommended in England and, by then, London was recognised as producing the finest horological work in the world. Perhaps, it is therefore unsurprising that even now, Tompion’s clocks are occasionally resurfacing in France, some with Tompion’s standard cases, but recently two additional clocks have been found originally housed in French made cases, like Queen Mary’s Tortoiseshell Tompion. The first example is timepiece movement no.70, started in c.1685 but held in stock and only finished in c1703-5, with a non-standard shallow arched dial. The second, no.401, is a standard striking and repeating movement finished concurrently in c.1704, with a cartouche-shaped dial to fit the French case, and it remains with the aristocratic French family for which it may have been originally made. Interestingly, both of these examples share the same sequence of manufacture as Queen Mary’s Tortoiseshell clock; in that the dials were produced especially to fit existing French cases, rather than the other way around; but, in contrast to Queen Mary’s bespoke movement, both of those movements are standard Tompion productions that have been adapted.

Some accounts survive pertaining to items supplied by Tompion to William and Mary, but on the evidence of known royal clocks made during their reign, several more accounts remain to be discovered. In October 1689, bills were submitted for work carried out at Whitehall, but no Tompion payments or bills dating to the period July 1690 to May 1693 are currently recorded, they are believed to exist but they have not as yet been traced. However, we are fortunate that a surviving bill covers the period May 1693 to October 1694, charging for items supplied to, and repairs carried out for, Queen Mary (William III is not mentioned):

1693 Delivered for Her Maj[est]ie Service To The
Watchmaker Rt Honble the Countess of Darby by Thomas Tompion
Thos Tompion
May ye 8th A Gold Watch at twentythree p 13s 23:13:0
Augt 16 A Spring Clock in a Tortoise Shell Case 40:00:0
March ye 28 A large Month Clock a fine walnut tree
1694 Case wth ye Diall plate Capitall & bases Gilt 25:0:0
Septembr 26 for Cleaning & Mending ye Queens quarter
repeating spring Clock 1:5:0
Octobr ye 15th for Cleaneing & Mending the Queens repeating
watch & a new glass & Lineing the Case 0:15:0
_____
90:13:0
Desembr ye The p
[ar]ticullers Above Mentioned Amounting to ye Sume of
18th Ninty pounds Thirteen Shillings hath been received
for Her Majtie us p me
[signed] EDerby.

The timepiece watch has not been identified and nor has the longcase clock, but the Spring Clock in a Tortoise Shell Case is almost certainly this example, sometimes also known as ‘The Boulle Tompion’. On Tuesday 16th May 1693, exactly three months before the supply of this clock, Hooke had noted in his diary Cald at Tompions: draught of Q.Marys clock, a reference, presumably, to a design he had examined. One month later on 16th June he Cald at Tompion, saw K and Q clocks – the King’s and Queen’s clocks. There is little doubt that the ‘K’ clock to which Hooke referred can be identified as the metal-cased travelling-clock with dual-control escapement – balance or pendulum, bearing William’s crowned cypher on the dome, and signed and dated 1693 on the back plate. Earlier in the year, on 15th February 1693 Hooke had told Tompion the way for the ballance and pendulum of coach watch. It was possibly ordered as William’s campaign clock. It is tempting to suppose that the ‘Q’ clock was similarly metal-cased and of comparable complexity, but taking into account the fact that Mary is known to have received the tortoiseshell cased clock exactly two months after Hooke’s second note it is possible he had seen the movement of this clock, which was not a standard model, in plan and in the making. Though un-numbered, as was usual with his special productions, it has features which relate it to items in the numbered series: the subject matter used by Graver 155 on dial, backplate and rear-door; the chamfered cusped cocks and the square-ended mock-pendulum aperture. These features all suggest a date of c. 1692-3, and had it been given a serial number it would probably have been included somewhere between numbers 200 to 220. This may be lent credence by the way it was described in the bill simply as A Spring Clock in a Tortoise Shell Case which almost certainly means that it did not, in common with this clock, have quarter-repeating work, particularly as the September 26th repair for Cleaning & Mending ye Queens quarter repeating spring Clock gets a full description.

While this clock is accepted as the one billed for above, an alternative candidate might be advanced for the ‘Q’ clock, namely the miniature, ebony cased spring clock no.222 with silver mounts which is a close visual (if not mechanical) counterpart to the William III dual-control clock dated 1693. The clock’s serial number, 222, is comfortably close to the parameters postulated for this Boulle clock. Nevertheless, as the ‘Boulle Tompion’ is accepted as the 1693 invoiced Tortoise Shell clocksupplied to Queen Mary, it was re-named in the 2013 book, Thomas Tompion 300 Years, arguably more aptly, as Queen Mary’s Tortoiseshell Tompion.

This is a unique clock within Tompion’s known oeuvre, however the signature engraved within the dial matting is also found on the Powis and Ilbert longcases, as well as the miniature metal cased spring clock, the Lonsdale Tompion No.23.

Additional information

Dimensions 5827373 cm