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Exhibit № 4: Ahasuerus Fromanteel, London. Circa 1655

Exhibit № 4: Ahasuerus Fromanteel, London. Circa 1655

A very rare Cromwellian striking ‘Second Period’ lantern clock

£45,000


Height

16 inches (402 mm)

Dial

The 6½ inch (164mm) diameter brass chapter ring, engraved with an inner quarter division ring and Roman numerals, with stylised half-hour marks between. The brass dialplate, chamfered and shaped to slot and pin-fit within the profile of the front pillars, with foliate engraved spandrel corners to the top and bottom. The centre with profuse floral engraving with a central flower of six plain petals to the front and six rose-shaped petals behind, and signed in a curve A Fromanteel Londini on two lines in a reserve above VI. The polished iron hand with a pierced indicator and sculpted counterpoised tail.

Movement

The posted frame movement with four tapering Doric columns, with ball feet and urns above, screw-fixing and set flush to the bottom and top plates. With pierced foliate and scroll frets to front and sides, the front highlighted with engraving. The large bell supported by brass standard with pins into the frame urns, and screw-fixed to the matching urn on top. The two trains contained within three vertical plates, the outer two of cruciform shape, and each train planted with three brass wheels on steel arbors; the going train to the front with a crownwheel above the top plate, verge escapement and later cow-tail front-suspended pendulum; the rear strike train governed by a countwheel mounted on the rear cruciform plate and striking on the bell above. The bottom plate drilled for two counterbalanced driving ropes, the top plate with an iron suspension hoop above the iron outer backplate with two riveted wall spikes.

Duration

30 hour

Provenance

Brian Loomes 2006, sold for £28,000;

John C Taylor Collection, inventory no.172

Literature

White, English Lantern Clocks, 1989, p.158, fig. III/68;

Garnier & Hollis, Innovation & Collaboration, 2018, p.136

The Luxury of Time, Clocks from 1550-1750, 2019, p.22

Escapement

Verge with early conversion (from balance) to a short cow-tail pendulum

Strike Type

Countwheel hour striking

Exhibited

2018, London, Innovation & Collaboration, exhibit no.14;

2019-20, Luxury of Time, National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh, exhibit no.3:5

In his definitive work, English Lantern Clocks, 1989, George White comments about this particular example that …even his ordinary work betrays the sense of proportion and inventiveness which were later to make his name. It is indeed both well finished and delightfully engraved, but it is also a rare example of his work signed before Fromanteel eventually gained his City Freedom in 1656. The clock was later adapted to improve its time keeping by replacing the top-mounted oscillating balance wheel with a pendulum, which gives us an intriguing insight as to its probable initial provenance.

Most conversions by English clockmakers hung pendulums to the rear, but this front-mounted cow-tail pendulum indicates the work of a continental clockmaker. As mentioned, Fromanteel made several documented trips abroad at this time and this style of pendulum conversion suggests that this lantern clock may have been originally sold for export, and could have been taken abroad by Fromanteel himself and sold direct to an overseas customer. Another Fromanteel lantern clock with a similar continental front-mounted cow-tail pendulum can be found at the Victoria & Albert Museum (accession number M.166-1937).

 

Ahasuerus Fromanteel (1607-1693) was a third generation immigrant of Dutch origin. The first wave of French and Dutch speaking Protestants fleeing persecution on the continent were Walloon refugees, who started to arrive in England from the Spanish Netherlands in 1567, having been forced to flee the suppression of Protestantism by King Philip II of Spain’s forces lead by the Duke of Alva. Queen Elizabeth I welcomed this initial wave of skilled craftsmen, one of whom was Baldewyn Fromanteel, who settled amongst the Dutch community in Colchester. His son Mordachaeus, a woodturner, moved to Norwich where his son Ahasuerus was born on 25 February 1607. There is no record of his apprenticeship, but Ahasuerus Fromanteel was working in London by 1629, perhaps initially for the Anglo-Dutchman, Cornelis Drebble (1572-1633). What is clear is that Fromanteel was an engineering polymath of diverse and extraordinary talent, working on lenses and water engines, as well as clocks. By 1631 Fromanteel had joined the Blacksmiths’ Company, and then the Clockmakers’ Company by redemption as a Brother in 1632.

This period marked the start of tensions between Charles I and Parliament that ultimately culminated in the breakdown of relations, civil war, and then Regicide in 1649. Court Books from the Goldsmiths’ Company give evidence of the level of precious metal trade in London between 1630 and 1660, which amply illustrates the turmoil that must have been apparent across all the trades in the city, including clockmakers. Through the relative calm of the 1630s, up until 1641, Goldsmiths’ records show touch marks on precious goods at a level that was not to be surpassed again until the 1680s, but with the start of civil war in 1642, trade went into an acute recession for 6 or 7 years, only recovering to half the pre-war levels by the early 1650s. Thus the London clockmakers would have found business extremely difficult with an inability to obtain patronage, and to find new markets for his wares, Fromanteel made several trips to the Continent, principally Holland, selling microscope lenses as well as clocks (as testified by the current example), whose high quality found him customers outside the turmoil in England.

From the start, Fromanteel had been at loggerheads with the Court of the Clockmakers’ Company, who would not recommend his Freedom of the City of London. Without his Freedom, he was not legally allowed or supposed to sign or sell clocks in London, which is probably why there are only a small handful of Fromanteel signed clocks prior to that. He undoubtedly made clocks for others, but there is no absolute evidence to confirm this beyond East and Fromanteel’s joint signature on the renowned gilt and silver Grande Sonnerie horizontal cubic table clock (also in this collection, inventory no.40). By the 1650s Fromanteel was back working on horological innovations, and he had aligned himself with Cromwell, reportedly supplying him a clock for the huge sum of £300 and another for Mr Palmer at £200 (Greengrass, Leslie & Hannon, 2013, The Hartlib Papers, The Digital Humanities Institute, University of Sheffield).

In January 1656, The Lord Protector finally intervened on his behalf, instructing that he be admitted to the Freedom of the City of London, much against the will of the ‘great and good’ in the Clockmakers’. Although Cromwell’s philanthropy covered the critical period of the introduction of the pendulum in London, it was short lived. Within weeks of Cromwell’s demise on 3 September 1658, Fromanteel began advertising his new pendulum clocks as being ...examined and proved before his Highness the Lord Protector by such Doctors, whose knowledge and learning is without exception.

Fromanteel’s clocks were undoubtedly the finest of the time and set the standard for future English clockmaking, but nailing his colours so firmly to the Protectorate cause was undoubtedly a mistake. Richard Cromwell lasted in office just nine months and by May 1660, Charles II was restored to the English throne, and his patronage leaned firmly towards Fromanteel’s great rival, Edward East.

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Product Description

In his definitive work, English Lantern Clocks, 1989, George White comments about this particular example that …even his ordinary work betrays the sense of proportion and inventiveness which were later to make his name. It is indeed both well finished and delightfully engraved, but it is also a rare example of his work signed before Fromanteel eventually gained his City Freedom in 1656. The clock was later adapted to improve its time keeping by replacing the top-mounted oscillating balance wheel with a pendulum, which gives us an intriguing insight as to its probable initial provenance.

Most conversions by English clockmakers hung pendulums to the rear, but this front-mounted cow-tail pendulum indicates the work of a continental clockmaker. As mentioned, Fromanteel made several documented trips abroad at this time and this style of pendulum conversion suggests that this lantern clock may have been originally sold for export, and could have been taken abroad by Fromanteel himself and sold direct to an overseas customer. Another Fromanteel lantern clock with a similar continental front-mounted cow-tail pendulum can be found at the Victoria & Albert Museum (accession number M.166-1937).

 

Ahasuerus Fromanteel (1607-1693) was a third generation immigrant of Dutch origin. The first wave of French and Dutch speaking Protestants fleeing persecution on the continent were Walloon refugees, who started to arrive in England from the Spanish Netherlands in 1567, having been forced to flee the suppression of Protestantism by King Philip II of Spain’s forces lead by the Duke of Alva. Queen Elizabeth I welcomed this initial wave of skilled craftsmen, one of whom was Baldewyn Fromanteel, who settled amongst the Dutch community in Colchester. His son Mordachaeus, a woodturner, moved to Norwich where his son Ahasuerus was born on 25 February 1607. There is no record of his apprenticeship, but Ahasuerus Fromanteel was working in London by 1629, perhaps initially for the Anglo-Dutchman, Cornelis Drebble (1572-1633). What is clear is that Fromanteel was an engineering polymath of diverse and extraordinary talent, working on lenses and water engines, as well as clocks. By 1631 Fromanteel had joined the Blacksmiths’ Company, and then the Clockmakers’ Company by redemption as a Brother in 1632.

This period marked the start of tensions between Charles I and Parliament that ultimately culminated in the breakdown of relations, civil war, and then Regicide in 1649. Court Books from the Goldsmiths’ Company give evidence of the level of precious metal trade in London between 1630 and 1660, which amply illustrates the turmoil that must have been apparent across all the trades in the city, including clockmakers. Through the relative calm of the 1630s, up until 1641, Goldsmiths’ records show touch marks on precious goods at a level that was not to be surpassed again until the 1680s, but with the start of civil war in 1642, trade went into an acute recession for 6 or 7 years, only recovering to half the pre-war levels by the early 1650s. Thus the London clockmakers would have found business extremely difficult with an inability to obtain patronage, and to find new markets for his wares, Fromanteel made several trips to the Continent, principally Holland, selling microscope lenses as well as clocks (as testified by the current example), whose high quality found him customers outside the turmoil in England.

From the start, Fromanteel had been at loggerheads with the Court of the Clockmakers’ Company, who would not recommend his Freedom of the City of London. Without his Freedom, he was not legally allowed or supposed to sign or sell clocks in London, which is probably why there are only a small handful of Fromanteel signed clocks prior to that. He undoubtedly made clocks for others, but there is no absolute evidence to confirm this beyond East and Fromanteel’s joint signature on the renowned gilt and silver Grande Sonnerie horizontal cubic table clock (also in this collection, inventory no.40). By the 1650s Fromanteel was back working on horological innovations, and he had aligned himself with Cromwell, reportedly supplying him a clock for the huge sum of £300 and another for Mr Palmer at £200 (Greengrass, Leslie & Hannon, 2013, The Hartlib Papers, The Digital Humanities Institute, University of Sheffield).

In January 1656, The Lord Protector finally intervened on his behalf, instructing that he be admitted to the Freedom of the City of London, much against the will of the ‘great and good’ in the Clockmakers’. Although Cromwell’s philanthropy covered the critical period of the introduction of the pendulum in London, it was short lived. Within weeks of Cromwell’s demise on 3 September 1658, Fromanteel began advertising his new pendulum clocks as being ...examined and proved before his Highness the Lord Protector by such Doctors, whose knowledge and learning is without exception.

Fromanteel’s clocks were undoubtedly the finest of the time and set the standard for future English clockmaking, but nailing his colours so firmly to the Protectorate cause was undoubtedly a mistake. Richard Cromwell lasted in office just nine months and by May 1660, Charles II was restored to the English throne, and his patronage leaned firmly towards Fromanteel’s great rival, Edward East.

Additional information

Dimensions 5827373 cm