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Exhibit № 9: The Samuel Knibb Cupola Clock. Circa 1665

Exhibit № 9: The Samuel Knibb Cupola Clock. Circa 1665

A much celebrated, highly important and very fine Charles II ebony veneered gilt-brass and silver mounted Dutch striking table clock by Samuel Knibb, London

Case design attributed to John Webb (1611-1672)

£1,500,000


Height

25½ inches (645 mm)

Case

The four-sided architectural case, to be viewed in the round, is ebony veneered onto an oak carcass, and divides into three parts. The cupola is attached to a removable board with an ebony veneered and moulded pedestal below the gilt-brass cylinder, fretted and with four silver mask mounts in between, all below the foliate cast gilt-brass cupola topped by a gilt-brass relief cast foliate urn. The further detachable pediment and frieze section, removed using two screws, also releasing the front door, and consisting of two pediments to the front and rear, with four corner finials on socle plinths, both tympana have typical gilt-brass cartouche mounts. The main body of the case has ebony tapered three-quarter columns to each corner, which are embellished with multi-piece Corinthian gilt-metal capitals and Scotia bases. The detachable front door is pin-hinged to the left column with a typical gilt ribbon-tied swag mount to the top rail. The pin-hinged rear door is inset flush below a similar swag mount, while the glazed sides have smaller conforming swags above. Both doors are opened using a spring lock release system operated from the pediment by pushrods within the right side window. The main section with a conforming moulded step-base, resting on the ebony veneered rectangular fixed base section with four gilt-brass adjustable bun feet, screwed into the underside of each corner.

Dial

The 8¼ inch (209 mm) square gilt-brass dial plate is very finely matted with two bevelled and shuttered winding holes with a conforming square calendar aperture above VI, and a circular central reserve engraved with a Tudor rose. The narrow solid-silver faced brass-backed chapter ring, engraved with Roman hour numerals and bold fleur-de-lys half-hour marks between, the outer engraved for every Arabic minute, 0-59, outside the division ring. The hour and minute hands are beautifully sculpted, pierced and bevelled in blued steel. Each corner is applied with a beautifully cast silver winged cherub spandrel, dot-marked in Fromanteel’s format. The dial plate has fire-gilding applied sparingly to the visible areas only, and is secured to the movement via the four dial feet and attached using typical arched brass latches.

The division and engraving of this clock could conceivably have been one of the last jobs executed by Henry Sutton (fl.1624-1665), with whom it has been sometimes cited that Samuel Knibb was sharing a workshop in Threadneedle St. from c.1662, until Sutton’s untimely death during the Great Plague in late 1665 (Robert Moray letter of 10 October 1665, to Henry Oldenburg, ‘wee all here [in Oxford] are much troubled with the loss of poor Thomson & Sutton’).

Movement

The unique Dutch-striking movement has brass rectangular plates, showing traces of the original fire-gilding. The frontplate divided in two, for each train and held together by eight slender baluster pillars, all individually latched. The wheel trains each have a large spring barrel and typical Fromanteel-shaped fusees with gut lines. The going train has a knife-edge verge escapement with single footed backcock and short, silvered bob, pendulum. The bolt-and-shutter maintaining power is activated via a long push-rod activated lever to the outside of the case, at the base of the cupola. The strike train is operated, via linkages, up to the bell and hammer extension plates mounted on the horizontal top-plate above, fixed by four latches in the Fromanteel manner. The hour train is governed by a countwheel with divisions enabling Dutch-striking on the larger hour, and smaller half-hour, bells. The plain backplate is boldly engraved Samuel Knibb Londini Fecit in flowing cursive script below centre in an arc.

Duration

8 days

Provenance

Most probably acquired from the maker c.1665 by Chaloner III Chute (d. 1685), thence by descent;

The Chute family at The Vyne, nr. Basingstoke, Hants, until early 20th century [repair mark of A. Porter, Basingstoke, 1901 on movement];

Mr Mullne, Cape Town, South Africa, 1962, sold to RA Lee;

Peter Gwynn collection, UK;

The John C Taylor Collection, inventory no.43

Literature

Antiquarian Horology, Sept 1963, Malcolm Gardner book advert for ‘The Knibb Family Clockmakers’, p.103 (illus.);

Collector’s Pieces Clocks And Watches, 1964, exhibition catalogue, p.11, illus. p.63; RA Lee, The Knibb Family Clockmakers, 1964, p.53, 73, 102, 118 & 147;

Antiquarian Horology, June 1964, RA Lee, ‘The Knibb Family Clockmakers’, p.202-9;

Antique Collector, April 1965, PG Dawson, ‘The Cupola Clock’, p.71-75;

RA Lee, The First Twelve Years of the English Pendulum Clock, 1969, no.13, pl.35-40;

Antiquarian Horology, June 1969, M Hurst, ‘The First Twelve Years of the Pendulum Clock’, p.151-3;

Horological Masterworks, Oxford, 2003, p.74-9;

Antiquarian Horology, Sept 2003, King & Taylor, Samuel Knibb’s Cupola Clock, Modern Techniques and Restoration Decisions’ p.499-501;

Huygens’ Legacy, Holland, 2004, p.82-85;

Garnier & Hollis, Innovation & Collaboration, 2018, p.213 & 216-217

Escapement

Knife-edge verge with short bob pendulum

Strike Type

Dutch, hour and half-hour, countwheel striking on two bells within the cupola

Exhibited

1964, Science Museum, Collector’s Pieces Clocks And Watches, AHS Tenth Anniversary Exhibition, exhibit no.24:

1969, The First Twelve Years of the English Pendulum Clock, Loan Exhibition no.13;

2003, Horological Masterworks, Oxford Museum for the History of Science and the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, exhibit no.17;

2004, Palais Het Loo, Holland, Huygens’ Legacy, exhibit no. 30;

2018, London, Innovation & Collaboration, exhibit no.49

This highly important clock is one of two existing to this design and specification, the other by Ahasuerus Fromanteel (Innovation & Collaboration, exhibit no.49). Both appear to have been first owned by the Chute family: this example for their country seat, The Vyne in Hampshire (now National Trust); the other for their London residence, that was advertised as stolen from Mr. Chute’s house at the upper end of Bedford Row, near Grays Inn, in The Post Man of 29 June 1700, and described therein as an Ebony Case of about a foot square, made in the form of a house, with a brass urn at the top of each corner, and a Cupola with a cupid upon the top of it of brass gilt.

It has long been accepted that Samuel Knibb likely had a hand in both examples and together, these matching clock cases with their apparent shared provenance was the catalyst for research by the horological and architectural historian, Richard Garnier, into the source of Fromanteel’s architectural case designs, and his research was revealed at the Innovation & Collaboration exhibition in 2018. As described in the advertisement of 1700, both cases are in the form of a house and are in fact truly architectural. Their unique characteristics allowed for a specific attribution to the Jonesean Palladian architect, John Webb (1611-1672), while the survival of over 200 of Webb’s original drawings and designs provided the requisite comparative detail. Furthermore, associations between the leading historic characters in this story, appear to advocate that conclusion; Chaloner Chute I (c.1595-1659) had commissioned Webb to design the classical Palladian portico that was added to the front elevation of The Vyne in 1654.

Webb had just previously worked at Chevening House, Kent, for Chute’s second wife’s stepson, Lord Dacre, while his son Chaloner Chute the younger (the possible purchaser of the Fromanteel clock) married Dacre’s daughter. Standing in the midst of repeated links to Webb’s architectural practice, the Chute family in three succeeding generations may have employed him, first to alter their country seat, and in the two succeeding generations seemingly commissioning the pair of cupola clocks. The cases, although slightly different in size, are outwardly very similar and appear to have been designed by the same architect, perhaps even built from the same plans. Their tempietto-like form, while in praise of the advances in natural philosophy (science) the clocks represent, plus a sign of the owner’s advanced taste, also possibly refer back to the portico added by their forebear a decade or so previously at The Vyne.

Possible precedence

The two cupola clocks were designed with four-sided, architectural tempietto cases with three-quarter columns at each angle, for display in the centre of a room. With their similarities in appearance the two Cupola clocks form an obvious pairing, they both follow Fromanteel lines of design and construction and appear to re-affirm a possible association between Ahasuerus Fromanteel and Samuel Knibb. The two clocks’ similarities suggest manufacture within a very short period, but the disparities indicate they are unlikely to have been made absolutely concurrently.

The Fromanteel comparative images appear to show a sequential progression; the use of a horizontal top-plate at this time suggests Fromanteel influence (see the Musical Fromanteel, exhibit no.7), and with their apparent links its use on the Samuel Knibb is not surprising, but the lack of it on the Fromanteel, suggests a level of planning and forethought in this clock, not apparent in the other. The Fromanteel case is in two parts requiring dismantling of the entire top to view and access the movement, but the Samuel Knibb divides into three, with the cupola on a removable board that provides much easier access. The locking mechanisms also differ; the Fromanteel has a typical turn-key square, while the Knibb utilises innovative push-rods to release the doors. Together, the movement and case developments found in this clock would indicate an advancement, and these refinements suggest that the Knibb cupola clock is more likely to have evolved from the other, sequentially perhaps; making it highly likely that Knibb was involved in the production of the Fromanteel clock too.

Meanwhile, the reconstructed provenance of the clocks seemingly indicates that they were both owned by the Chute family: the Fromanteel clock being advertised in 1700 as stolen from their London townhouse at Bedford Row; the Knibb may have been at their country house, The Vyne, near Basingstoke, as implied by its repair marks. The commissioning of each might have beenby two successive generations of the family: Chaloner Chute the younger (d.1666) perhaps ordering the first clock from Fromanteel just before the Great Fire and his own death; and the order for the second clock, by his son Chaloner III (d.1685), perhaps going direct to Samuel Knibb, as Fromanteel had then quit London, ultimately for Amsterdam. This succession of events agrees both with RT Gwynn’s deduction of provenance for both clocks, and with RA Lee, M Hurst and DW Parke’s separate pre-existing suggestions that Samuel Knibb was the possible maker of both clocks.

An alternative precedence

While the design attribution to Webb, and the shared provenance, seems assured, with his experience in development and manufacturing, Dr Taylor has put forward an alternative view on precedence, where this clock might have been made first, perhaps in c.1664. Directly after this, makers in London had to contend with two devastating disasters, the Great Plague (1665-1666) and the Great Fire (1666). The main supply chains for their brass and steel were disrupted, many workers had nowhere to live, and an economic slump was taking place. Meanwhile, the Chute family had probably left London during the Plague for their country house, The Vyne, near Basingstoke, in this instance perhaps taking their prized Samuel Knibb clock with them.

When the family returned, perhaps they purposefully left the Knibb at The Vyne, having already ordered a second clock for their London home. Fromanteel, with his larger set-up, needed the work and could perhaps, see cost savings in utilising one of his standard movements. As the countwheel and fly worked above the top of the plates, he added screwed extension plates; after all, the extra top plate in Samuel’s design was expensive, but performs no mechanical function and is not seen. Arguably, the second order could therefore have been given to Ahasuerus Fromanteel simply on cost grounds, but before he departed for East Anglia in 1665 because of the plague. This alternative view leaves the question as to who made the first clock, still open for debate.

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Product Description

This highly important clock is one of two existing to this design and specification, the other by Ahasuerus Fromanteel (Innovation & Collaboration, exhibit no.49). Both appear to have been first owned by the Chute family: this example for their country seat, The Vyne in Hampshire (now National Trust); the other for their London residence, that was advertised as stolen from Mr. Chute’s house at the upper end of Bedford Row, near Grays Inn, in The Post Man of 29 June 1700, and described therein as an Ebony Case of about a foot square, made in the form of a house, with a brass urn at the top of each corner, and a Cupola with a cupid upon the top of it of brass gilt.

It has long been accepted that Samuel Knibb likely had a hand in both examples and together, these matching clock cases with their apparent shared provenance was the catalyst for research by the horological and architectural historian, Richard Garnier, into the source of Fromanteel’s architectural case designs, and his research was revealed at the Innovation & Collaboration exhibition in 2018. As described in the advertisement of 1700, both cases are in the form of a house and are in fact truly architectural. Their unique characteristics allowed for a specific attribution to the Jonesean Palladian architect, John Webb (1611-1672), while the survival of over 200 of Webb’s original drawings and designs provided the requisite comparative detail. Furthermore, associations between the leading historic characters in this story, appear to advocate that conclusion; Chaloner Chute I (c.1595-1659) had commissioned Webb to design the classical Palladian portico that was added to the front elevation of The Vyne in 1654.

Webb had just previously worked at Chevening House, Kent, for Chute’s second wife’s stepson, Lord Dacre, while his son Chaloner Chute the younger (the possible purchaser of the Fromanteel clock) married Dacre’s daughter. Standing in the midst of repeated links to Webb’s architectural practice, the Chute family in three succeeding generations may have employed him, first to alter their country seat, and in the two succeeding generations seemingly commissioning the pair of cupola clocks. The cases, although slightly different in size, are outwardly very similar and appear to have been designed by the same architect, perhaps even built from the same plans. Their tempietto-like form, while in praise of the advances in natural philosophy (science) the clocks represent, plus a sign of the owner’s advanced taste, also possibly refer back to the portico added by their forebear a decade or so previously at The Vyne.

Possible precedence

The two cupola clocks were designed with four-sided, architectural tempietto cases with three-quarter columns at each angle, for display in the centre of a room. With their similarities in appearance the two Cupola clocks form an obvious pairing, they both follow Fromanteel lines of design and construction and appear to re-affirm a possible association between Ahasuerus Fromanteel and Samuel Knibb. The two clocks’ similarities suggest manufacture within a very short period, but the disparities indicate they are unlikely to have been made absolutely concurrently.

The Fromanteel comparative images appear to show a sequential progression; the use of a horizontal top-plate at this time suggests Fromanteel influence (see the Musical Fromanteel, exhibit no.7), and with their apparent links its use on the Samuel Knibb is not surprising, but the lack of it on the Fromanteel, suggests a level of planning and forethought in this clock, not apparent in the other. The Fromanteel case is in two parts requiring dismantling of the entire top to view and access the movement, but the Samuel Knibb divides into three, with the cupola on a removable board that provides much easier access. The locking mechanisms also differ; the Fromanteel has a typical turn-key square, while the Knibb utilises innovative push-rods to release the doors. Together, the movement and case developments found in this clock would indicate an advancement, and these refinements suggest that the Knibb cupola clock is more likely to have evolved from the other, sequentially perhaps; making it highly likely that Knibb was involved in the production of the Fromanteel clock too.

Meanwhile, the reconstructed provenance of the clocks seemingly indicates that they were both owned by the Chute family: the Fromanteel clock being advertised in 1700 as stolen from their London townhouse at Bedford Row; the Knibb may have been at their country house, The Vyne, near Basingstoke, as implied by its repair marks. The commissioning of each might have beenby two successive generations of the family: Chaloner Chute the younger (d.1666) perhaps ordering the first clock from Fromanteel just before the Great Fire and his own death; and the order for the second clock, by his son Chaloner III (d.1685), perhaps going direct to Samuel Knibb, as Fromanteel had then quit London, ultimately for Amsterdam. This succession of events agrees both with RT Gwynn’s deduction of provenance for both clocks, and with RA Lee, M Hurst and DW Parke’s separate pre-existing suggestions that Samuel Knibb was the possible maker of both clocks.

An alternative precedence

While the design attribution to Webb, and the shared provenance, seems assured, with his experience in development and manufacturing, Dr Taylor has put forward an alternative view on precedence, where this clock might have been made first, perhaps in c.1664. Directly after this, makers in London had to contend with two devastating disasters, the Great Plague (1665-1666) and the Great Fire (1666). The main supply chains for their brass and steel were disrupted, many workers had nowhere to live, and an economic slump was taking place. Meanwhile, the Chute family had probably left London during the Plague for their country house, The Vyne, near Basingstoke, in this instance perhaps taking their prized Samuel Knibb clock with them.

When the family returned, perhaps they purposefully left the Knibb at The Vyne, having already ordered a second clock for their London home. Fromanteel, with his larger set-up, needed the work and could perhaps, see cost savings in utilising one of his standard movements. As the countwheel and fly worked above the top of the plates, he added screwed extension plates; after all, the extra top plate in Samuel’s design was expensive, but performs no mechanical function and is not seen. Arguably, the second order could therefore have been given to Ahasuerus Fromanteel simply on cost grounds, but before he departed for East Anglia in 1665 because of the plague. This alternative view leaves the question as to who made the first clock, still open for debate.

Additional information

Dimensions 5827373 cm