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Exhibit № 7: The Musical Fromanteel. Circa 1663-65

Exhibit № 7: The Musical Fromanteel. Circa 1663-65

A supremely important Charles II ebony veneered architectural and gilt-brass mounted ‘experimental’ musical spring table clock by Ahasuerus Fromanteel, London

£1,250,000


Height

15¾ inches (400 mm)

Case

The case of basic architectural form, with ‘rising hood’, of ebony veneer and mouldings onto an oak carcass. The simple flat-top main moulding, surmounted by a plain cushion dome top with central finial (working as a handle to lift-off the pad section to give access to the musical repeat lever), and flanked by four matching finials mounted above the columns. The dome top supported by gilt-brass moulded Doric capitals on three-quarter tapered ebony columns to the front door, with matching half-columns to the rear (Fromanteel’s earliest architectural format), their gilt-brass bases resting on the main stylobate moulding. The separate square-edge-veneered base-board standing on four long-neck brass bun feet. The front door locking system is released in Fromanteel’s usual manner, via a turn-square to the right (III) side. The whole columned and domed case structure lifting off the wooden base-board, like a longcase clock hood, from the rebated un-veneered oak backboard, which itself slots into the base-board, and is screw-fixed, but removable.

Dial

The 7½ by 8 inch (190 x 200 mm) rectangular brass dial signed A: Fromanteel Londini fecit along the lower edge, the corners applied with gilt-brass cherub head spandrels. The slender solid-silver faced chapter ring with Roman hours and fleur-de-lys half-hour markers with Arabic minutes, every 5, within the divisions. The finely matted centre with subsequent mock pendulum below the regulation sector, and well-sculpted hands in blued steel. The whole dial held to the movement frontplate by four latched dial feet, of different lengths on either side, with the going motionwork mounted to the dial back.

Movement

The extraordinary and complex musical movement, with a triple divided and stepped frontplate held by thirteen latched fined baluster pillars of two different lengths, mounted above is a further horizontal top-plate, for the bell assemblies and snail pendulum regulation, fixed with four latches via riveted studs to the top of the main vertical plates. The going train is positioned within the top right-hand (III) side in the slimmer, 2 inch deep, section with early-form flanged spring barrel, fusee and angled verge escapement (original anti-friction roller-cage present), now pivoted with spring-suspension regulation and short bob pendulum. The hour and quarter train is mounted below (III side) and governed by a large outside countwheel, mounted on the backplate, the hammer tails mounted in a pumped frame, via a face cam on the cannon wheel, up to hammers on the top-plate, sounding ting-tang quarters with the hours struck on the largest bell. The music train is within the deeper, 3½ inch, divided-movement section on the left (IX side) and is tripped and set off by three pins (repositioned) on the countwheel, now at V, IX and XII, or manually by a lever at the top, and governed by a single slotted outside countwheel. The flanged spring barrel with fusee (innovatively extended for the extra depth), and greatwheel driving the large changeable two-tune music barrel, engraved and pinned for the Granadeers [sic] March and Western March, which is sprung, and pumped by a forked selector on the top-plate, via a lever through the left (IX) side of the case.

Duration

30 hour

Provenance

Prior to 1930, JHS ‘Hansard’ Watt of London:

After 1930, purchased by dealer AS Vernay, of London and New York, and sold to;

Private collection USA, where it was ‘the clock that sounded the New Year in on American radio’, until 1958:

RT (Peter) Gwynn collection, UK, inventory C1;

John C. Taylor Collection, inventory no.62

Literature

Cescinsky & Gribble, Early English Furniture and Woodwork, Vol. II, 1922, p.327;

Britten, Old Clocks and Watches, 3rd ed., 1922, p.503-5;

The Connoisseur Magazine, June 1959, ‘Fromanteel’s Portrayal of Thing’s to Come’, p.40-43;

Illustrated London News, 28 Jan. 1961, p.146;

Antique Collector Magazine, Feb. 1961 Dawson (& Parkes), ‘A Spring-Driven Musical Clock’;

Lee, The First Twelve Years of the English Pendulum Clock, Exhibition Catalogue 1969, no.6, pl.21, 22, 23 & 24;

Antiquarian Horology, June 1969, M Hurst, ‘The First Twelve Years of the Pendulum Clock’, p.150;

Dawson, Drover & Parkes, Early English Clocks, 1982, p.93, fig.115, p.502- 512, fig.744-50;

RT Gwynn Collection Catalogue, private, 1990, inventory C1;

Horological Masterworks, Oxford, 2003, p. 62-67;

Huygens’ Legacy, Holland, 2004, p. 72-75;

Garnier & Hollis, Innovation & Collaboration, 2018, p.176-177

Escapement

Pivoted verge with crutch and spring suspended short bob pendulum with remote regulation square through the dial plate above XII

Strike Type

Countwheel hour and ting-tang quarter striking, and playing music on 10 bells at V, IX and XII o’clock

Exhibited

Winter 1960-61, Age of Charles II Exhibition, The Royal Academy;

1969, The First Twelve Years of the English Pendulum Clock Exhibition, Bruton Place, London, exhibit no.6;

2003, Horological Masterworks, Oxford Museum for the History of Science, and the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, exhibit no.14;

2004, Holland, Palais Het Loo, Huygens’ Legacy, exhibit no. 27;

Sept. , London, Swedenborg Society, Antiquarian Horological Society lecture on ‘Ahasuerus Fromanteel’ by Rebecca Pohancenik;

2018, Innovation & Collaboration, London, exhibit no. 38

This extraordinarily important musical and quarter striking spring table clock has the most complicated movement of any made in the first twelve years of the pendulum, and both case and movement retain evidence of experimental developments, while the early Fromanteel features remain and are indisputable. In their notes produced for RT Gwynn, Percy Dawson and Dan Parkes concluded: There is little doubt that this clock remained in the Fromanteels’ workshop from approximately 1660 to 1666, during which time alterations were made by way of experiment, resulting in a clock without parallel.

The case is of simplified architectural form and is one of the earliest departures from the architectural pediment and, from its movement features, conceivably started before the ‘fishscale’ dome top series spring clocks. Although with udoubted elements of restoration, and certainly anomalous in its lack of a frieze, hindsight might suggest the appearance of a case produced closer to the end of the decade, however the distinctive, and arguably archetypal, Fromanteel features belie this and ignore his renowned ability to innovate, conceive, develop and adopt new techniques and styles. In similarity to an early longcase, and hooded wall clock (see Messer Fromanteel, exhibit 6, p.36), the ‘hood’ lifts off, leaving the backboard affixed to the base. This was unique and it endures as the first known ‘rising hood’ spring clock case. This was a design concept that Tompion would adopt, together with the casemaker Jasper Braem, but not until over ten years later, for his two-train Grande Sonnerie spring clocks in c.1677 (see p.114), although that series lifted-off in their entirety without a backboard. Whilst the top is of caddy type without a frieze, it retains the architectural features to the main body, the corner columns have Doric capitals, as found in the Oxford Science Museum Fromanteel longcase (Museum no.54420), and the Lord Harris hanging East (Horological Treasures of the Lord Harris Collection, 2017, front cover and p.25). Whilst, arguably critically, to the rear are matching half-columns, Fromanteel’s earliest architectural format, as seen on The Norfolk Fromanteel longcase (from this collection, inventory no.41), dating from before he introduced quarter-columns, set against upright fillets set behind, in c.1665. Meanwhile, the front door is secured in archetypal fashion, by a catch with a square, key-operated at the side, in similarity to almost every Fromanteel case dating from his introduction of the pendulum to until he departed from London in 1665, because of the Great Plague. Initially, Fromanteel sought safety in East Anglia, but he soon departed to the continent, not to return to London for over ten years.

The fire-gilded dial is consistent with Fromanteel’s other early clocks, the centre is finely matted and with fine winged cherub head corner spandrels, while the absence of winding holes is reassuring. The chapter ring is brass-backed, with a thin plate of solid-silver lead-soldered to the front, in the manner which only Fromanteel appears to have been doing at this time, while the sector aperture below XII for the rise and fall regulation is apparently unique.

Meanwhile, the movement is of supreme horological importance, as the very first musical clock recorded or known with pendulum. Looking at the front of the clock, the going train is contained in the upper right-hand (III) side of the movement, the striking and quarter train is planted below it in the lower right part, and the musical train is contained on the whole of the left-hand (IX) side. The going and striking trains are of similar depth and the right-hand side half frontplate is again split horizontally. The musical train is considerably deeper and occupies the whole of one half-plate. Further splitting of this is not necessary, as the hammers and bells are on a platform which is positioned on top of the main plates.

It retains a ‘remnant’ roller-cage on the backplate, for anti-friction wheels as used in the aforementioned Norfolk and Oxford Science Museum longcase movements, as well as in an early spring clock by Edward East. The verge is now pivoted and works with a spring-suspended bob pendulum with regulation through the dial. These are later features, but probably experimental upgrades undertaken in Fromanteel’s workshop, as seemingly confirmed by the concurrent and consistent regulation disc and dial aperture. Dan Parkes was more absolute in his notes … the present verge was undoubtedly altered before the clock left Fromanteel’s workshop. The method of winding is also ingenious, original and unique; operating by means of a series of levers and cranks to their respective fusees, (shown left) that allows the winding arbors with their key-squares to be set to the sides of the dial, which are only visible when the front door is opened. On the other hand, the mock pendulum is a subsequent addition, almost undoubtedly by a later clockmaker, perhaps undertaken in the 1680-90s. However, its inclusion has undeniable logic, as it serves to complete the set of features required to operate the clock entirely from the dial, without the necessity to remove the hood.

The Movement in more detail

The rise and fall consists of a long horizontal arbor squared through the dial for adjustment, with a disc divided into 100, with Arabic numerals at each fifth division. The back end of this pivots in a substantial cock, screwed to the top-plate, with a snail on the rear end. Below is another vertical plate, the bottom of which is fixed to the remnant roller-cage and arranged between, is a helical-spring-loaded arbor bearing upwards on the snail. The bottom end holds the suspension spring and rod, that slides through the crutch, thus lengthening or shortening the effective length of the pendulum.

The going train uses the customary four wheels, fusee and spring barrel, but they are contained in such a small area that considerable ingenuity has been employed to fit it all in, and necessitated the crown wheel and pinion being positioned at an angle, as found in Fromanteel’s earliest ‘Box’ pendulum clocks. The rear verge and crown wheel pivots are in a block riveted to the back plate, which is of the earliest accepted design for pendulum clocks. The Striking and Quarter Train also employs the customary four wheels and pinions and must supply 150 blows during twelve hours; 78 for the hours and 72 for the ting-tang quarters. As there is insufficient space between the plates to contain the fly, this has been placed on cocks to the front plate. The musical train spring-barrel, fusee, main wheel and pin barrel occupy the left (IX) side of the plates from top to bottom and it was necessary to position the wheels outside of the back plate. The arbors of the hoop wheel and warning wheel extend for the full depth of the frames but the hoop wheel is positioned on a plane with the back plate, with a cut-out to accommodate it, and the warning wheel is positioned outside, and these are cocked. The fly is also cocked but runs outside of the backplate. The countwheel is mounted on a stud outside and driven by a pinion, squared on the back pivot of the pin barrel. The train is discharged by one of three pins in the striking and quarter locking plate through a system of levers and linkages. The pin barrel is ingenious and retained by a spring-loaded catch that can be withdrawn without dismantling the clock, suggesting that there were originally other barrels, which have since been lost.

The hammer and bell top-plate is held in position by four posts, which protrude through, with four latches to retain it, and each bell has its own individual stand. The hour and ting-tang hammers are positioned in pivot posts rivetted to the plate, ingeniously retained by end plates pinned to one of the posts and removable. The musical hammers are contained in a frame which is held down by two feet, a screw in each, the ends of which have been bent over in typical Fromanteel fashion to form steady pins. There are twenty hammers, ten working on each side of this frame.

JHS ‘Hansard’ Watt was a sometime poet, and well-known literary agent. His collection of humourous poems Back Numbers was illustrated by Lady Sybil Grant and published in 1914. Hansard was the grandson of AP (Alexander Pollock) Watt (1834-1914), who is considered the first true literary agent.

AP Watt had moved from Glasgow to London to work as a reader for Alexander Strahan’s publishing company and by 1876, he was promoted to partner in the recently incorporated Strahan & Co. By 1878 he was operating as an advertising agent, selling space in Strahan’s stable of periodicals. Through his experience at Strahan & Co., Watt became acquainted with many of the leading authors of his day, such as Wilkie Collins, Arthur Conan Doyle, Thomas Hardy, and Rudyard Kipling, all of whom later became his clients. AP Watt started working as a literary agent in 1875, when his friend, the author George MacDonald, asked him to negotiate a contract with a London publishing company. By late 1881, AP Watt incorporated his business, creating AP Watt & Co. and began to define the role of the modern literary agent. The agency is considered the world’s first and, for a time, was the largest as well.

After AP Watt’s death in 1914, his son AS Watt took over the literary agency, which became AP Watt & Son, the company was world-renowned and soon included his sons: Hansard, William and Peter. Together they had attracted many of the most important and best-selling authors of the time, among them Pearl Buck, GK Chesterton, Robert Graves, W Somerset Maugham, Rafael Sabatini, Nevil Shute, Mark Twain, PG Wodehouse, WB Yeats, and HG Wells.

By 1965, the last surviving member of the family, Peter Watt, had died and it ceased to be a family-run business, but continued to operate in London until 2012, when the oldest literary agency in the world, was sold to one of the youngest, United Agents.

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Product Description

This extraordinarily important musical and quarter striking spring table clock has the most complicated movement of any made in the first twelve years of the pendulum, and both case and movement retain evidence of experimental developments, while the early Fromanteel features remain and are indisputable. In their notes produced for RT Gwynn, Percy Dawson and Dan Parkes concluded: There is little doubt that this clock remained in the Fromanteels’ workshop from approximately 1660 to 1666, during which time alterations were made by way of experiment, resulting in a clock without parallel.

The case is of simplified architectural form and is one of the earliest departures from the architectural pediment and, from its movement features, conceivably started before the ‘fishscale’ dome top series spring clocks. Although with udoubted elements of restoration, and certainly anomalous in its lack of a frieze, hindsight might suggest the appearance of a case produced closer to the end of the decade, however the distinctive, and arguably archetypal, Fromanteel features belie this and ignore his renowned ability to innovate, conceive, develop and adopt new techniques and styles. In similarity to an early longcase, and hooded wall clock (see Messer Fromanteel, exhibit 6, p.36), the ‘hood’ lifts off, leaving the backboard affixed to the base. This was unique and it endures as the first known ‘rising hood’ spring clock case. This was a design concept that Tompion would adopt, together with the casemaker Jasper Braem, but not until over ten years later, for his two-train Grande Sonnerie spring clocks in c.1677 (see p.114), although that series lifted-off in their entirety without a backboard. Whilst the top is of caddy type without a frieze, it retains the architectural features to the main body, the corner columns have Doric capitals, as found in the Oxford Science Museum Fromanteel longcase (Museum no.54420), and the Lord Harris hanging East (Horological Treasures of the Lord Harris Collection, 2017, front cover and p.25). Whilst, arguably critically, to the rear are matching half-columns, Fromanteel’s earliest architectural format, as seen on The Norfolk Fromanteel longcase (from this collection, inventory no.41), dating from before he introduced quarter-columns, set against upright fillets set behind, in c.1665. Meanwhile, the front door is secured in archetypal fashion, by a catch with a square, key-operated at the side, in similarity to almost every Fromanteel case dating from his introduction of the pendulum to until he departed from London in 1665, because of the Great Plague. Initially, Fromanteel sought safety in East Anglia, but he soon departed to the continent, not to return to London for over ten years.

The fire-gilded dial is consistent with Fromanteel’s other early clocks, the centre is finely matted and with fine winged cherub head corner spandrels, while the absence of winding holes is reassuring. The chapter ring is brass-backed, with a thin plate of solid-silver lead-soldered to the front, in the manner which only Fromanteel appears to have been doing at this time, while the sector aperture below XII for the rise and fall regulation is apparently unique.

Meanwhile, the movement is of supreme horological importance, as the very first musical clock recorded or known with pendulum. Looking at the front of the clock, the going train is contained in the upper right-hand (III) side of the movement, the striking and quarter train is planted below it in the lower right part, and the musical train is contained on the whole of the left-hand (IX) side. The going and striking trains are of similar depth and the right-hand side half frontplate is again split horizontally. The musical train is considerably deeper and occupies the whole of one half-plate. Further splitting of this is not necessary, as the hammers and bells are on a platform which is positioned on top of the main plates.

It retains a ‘remnant’ roller-cage on the backplate, for anti-friction wheels as used in the aforementioned Norfolk and Oxford Science Museum longcase movements, as well as in an early spring clock by Edward East. The verge is now pivoted and works with a spring-suspended bob pendulum with regulation through the dial. These are later features, but probably experimental upgrades undertaken in Fromanteel’s workshop, as seemingly confirmed by the concurrent and consistent regulation disc and dial aperture. Dan Parkes was more absolute in his notes … the present verge was undoubtedly altered before the clock left Fromanteel’s workshop. The method of winding is also ingenious, original and unique; operating by means of a series of levers and cranks to their respective fusees, (shown left) that allows the winding arbors with their key-squares to be set to the sides of the dial, which are only visible when the front door is opened. On the other hand, the mock pendulum is a subsequent addition, almost undoubtedly by a later clockmaker, perhaps undertaken in the 1680-90s. However, its inclusion has undeniable logic, as it serves to complete the set of features required to operate the clock entirely from the dial, without the necessity to remove the hood.

The Movement in more detail

The rise and fall consists of a long horizontal arbor squared through the dial for adjustment, with a disc divided into 100, with Arabic numerals at each fifth division. The back end of this pivots in a substantial cock, screwed to the top-plate, with a snail on the rear end. Below is another vertical plate, the bottom of which is fixed to the remnant roller-cage and arranged between, is a helical-spring-loaded arbor bearing upwards on the snail. The bottom end holds the suspension spring and rod, that slides through the crutch, thus lengthening or shortening the effective length of the pendulum.

The going train uses the customary four wheels, fusee and spring barrel, but they are contained in such a small area that considerable ingenuity has been employed to fit it all in, and necessitated the crown wheel and pinion being positioned at an angle, as found in Fromanteel’s earliest ‘Box’ pendulum clocks. The rear verge and crown wheel pivots are in a block riveted to the back plate, which is of the earliest accepted design for pendulum clocks. The Striking and Quarter Train also employs the customary four wheels and pinions and must supply 150 blows during twelve hours; 78 for the hours and 72 for the ting-tang quarters. As there is insufficient space between the plates to contain the fly, this has been placed on cocks to the front plate. The musical train spring-barrel, fusee, main wheel and pin barrel occupy the left (IX) side of the plates from top to bottom and it was necessary to position the wheels outside of the back plate. The arbors of the hoop wheel and warning wheel extend for the full depth of the frames but the hoop wheel is positioned on a plane with the back plate, with a cut-out to accommodate it, and the warning wheel is positioned outside, and these are cocked. The fly is also cocked but runs outside of the backplate. The countwheel is mounted on a stud outside and driven by a pinion, squared on the back pivot of the pin barrel. The train is discharged by one of three pins in the striking and quarter locking plate through a system of levers and linkages. The pin barrel is ingenious and retained by a spring-loaded catch that can be withdrawn without dismantling the clock, suggesting that there were originally other barrels, which have since been lost.

The hammer and bell top-plate is held in position by four posts, which protrude through, with four latches to retain it, and each bell has its own individual stand. The hour and ting-tang hammers are positioned in pivot posts rivetted to the plate, ingeniously retained by end plates pinned to one of the posts and removable. The musical hammers are contained in a frame which is held down by two feet, a screw in each, the ends of which have been bent over in typical Fromanteel fashion to form steady pins. There are twenty hammers, ten working on each side of this frame.

JHS ‘Hansard’ Watt was a sometime poet, and well-known literary agent. His collection of humourous poems Back Numbers was illustrated by Lady Sybil Grant and published in 1914. Hansard was the grandson of AP (Alexander Pollock) Watt (1834-1914), who is considered the first true literary agent.

AP Watt had moved from Glasgow to London to work as a reader for Alexander Strahan’s publishing company and by 1876, he was promoted to partner in the recently incorporated Strahan & Co. By 1878 he was operating as an advertising agent, selling space in Strahan’s stable of periodicals. Through his experience at Strahan & Co., Watt became acquainted with many of the leading authors of his day, such as Wilkie Collins, Arthur Conan Doyle, Thomas Hardy, and Rudyard Kipling, all of whom later became his clients. AP Watt started working as a literary agent in 1875, when his friend, the author George MacDonald, asked him to negotiate a contract with a London publishing company. By late 1881, AP Watt incorporated his business, creating AP Watt & Co. and began to define the role of the modern literary agent. The agency is considered the world’s first and, for a time, was the largest as well.

After AP Watt’s death in 1914, his son AS Watt took over the literary agency, which became AP Watt & Son, the company was world-renowned and soon included his sons: Hansard, William and Peter. Together they had attracted many of the most important and best-selling authors of the time, among them Pearl Buck, GK Chesterton, Robert Graves, W Somerset Maugham, Rafael Sabatini, Nevil Shute, Mark Twain, PG Wodehouse, WB Yeats, and HG Wells.

By 1965, the last surviving member of the family, Peter Watt, had died and it ceased to be a family-run business, but continued to operate in London until 2012, when the oldest literary agency in the world, was sold to one of the youngest, United Agents.

Additional information

Dimensions 5827373 cm