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The Hildesborg Knibb. Circa 1675.

The Hildesborg Knibb. Circa 1675.

A very rare Charles II ebony and gilt-brass mounted Phase I Roman striking table clock with tic-tac escapement by Joseph Knibb, London.

£165,000


Height

15 inches (390 mm).

Case

The ebony veneered case of archetypal Knibb Phase I form, with a flat topped architectural moulding below the shallow dome top, which is applied with a gilt-brass winged cherub mount and surmounted by an octagonal-section faceted gilt-brass Phase I handle, all flanked by four gilt-brass finials. The side apertures are glazed, whilst the front door is set with a pierced ebony sound fret to the top rail and elaborate gilt-brass escutcheons to the side stiles. The case plinth has conforming ebony mouldings and the whole is raised on four typical gilt-brass bun feet.

Dial

The 8 inch square gilt-brass dial has a finely matted centre and is signed Joseph Knibb Londini Fecit along the lower edge, flanked by winged cherubs head spandrels. The silvered chapter ring has Roman hours, with IV to signify Roman strike, and fleur-de-lys half-hour markers with Arabic minutes within the division ring. The delicate pierced blued steel hands are of typical early form and the three dial feet are latched behind the front plate.

As seen here, on his Roman striking clocks Knibb used IV on the chapter ring instead of the usual IIII – the Is are denoted on a high pitched bell and the Vs and Xs on a lower bell.

Movement

The twin gut fusee movement has delicate brass plates united by eight latched and finned baluster pillars, the going train has a tic-tac escapement on a knife-edge with engraved single foot backcock and brass-rod bob pendulum. The strike train is governed by an outside countwheel with a double-sided pinwheel for lifting the two hammer tails. The hours are indicated using the Roman system, whereby the Is are struck individually on the small ‘pork-pie’ bell and the Vs (singly) and Xs (doubly) on the larger ‘pork-pie’ bell mounted above it. The small numbered and rose engraved countwheel is mounted on the backplate with a re-setting trip lever through a slot above it. The backplate retains its original fire-gilding and the engraving, inspired and possibly executed by Wenceslaus Hollar (1607–1677), has a single stem of foliage issuing six open and closed flower heads, with individual tulip heads to the bottom corners, the centre of the backplate is signed Joseph Knibb Londini Fecit in an arc above an engraved winged hour-glass, an allegory for Tempus fugit (time flies), all enclosed within a single line border.

Duration

8 days

Provenance

The Count Gotthard Wachtmeister (1834-1920), of Hildesborg Palace, Sweden;

Bonhams, London, 28th June 2011, lot 95;

The Keith Roberts collection, inventory no.8.

Literature

Exceptional English Clockwork, The Keith Roberts Collection, 2015, p.76-81.

Garnier & Hollis, Innovation & Collaboration, 2018, p.250-253.

Exhibited

London 2018, Innovation & Collaboration, exhibit no.73.

Joseph Knibb’s Phase I spring clocks were the first made to his own specific design and were all probably produced within eight years of him setting up his business in London in circa 1670; all share the same case style, but they are often mechanically quite different, displaying Knibb’s renowned array of strike variations, and unusual escapement; in this instance Roman notation striking and a tic-tac. By the latter part of the 1670s, Knibb started to evolve his spring clocks making them smaller; the first Phase II example was dated 1677, and marked a shift away from this earlier style.

The original fire-gilding to the present backplate is particularly beautiful, but also a costly and early attribute, although the first of Knibb’s Phase II spring clocks retain this expensive feature, by the late 1670s, and the introduction of his Phase III clocks, Knibb had essentially dispensed with it.

The Count Gotthard Wachtmeister af Johannishus (1834-1920), and predecessors

The Count Gotthard Wachtmeister was Governor of Malmöhus County, on the southern tip of Sweden, from 1880 to 1892. The Swedish title, Count Wachtmeister af Johannishus, was bestowed in 1687 on Hans Wachtmeister (1642-1714), admiral of the whole Swedish Navy and advisor to two Kings, Charles XI and Charles XII.

Gotthard was the son of Francese Lovisa von Rehausen (1803-1837) and Count Carl Johan Wachtmeister (1793-1843). Francese Lovisa was the daughter of a Swedish diplomat, Baron Gotthard Mauritz von Rehausen (1761-1822), the Minister Plenipotentiary in London, and Harriet Louisa Bulkeley (1776-1834). Harriet’s father, John Bulkeley (d.1803) was a Member of The British Factory of Lisbon and amassed a fortune. Between 1757 and 1776, Parr & Bulkeley were the leading merchants in Lisbon’s trade with the British North American colonies. Over this period they handled 185 of the 1,040 vessels, more than double the business of any other firm, accounting for one third of all of the grain and flour coming into Lisbon, but they also traded other cargoes of Newfoundland fish and Carolina rice. By the time John Bulkeley died in 1803, he left an estate worth over £300,000.

A black and white photograph taken in 1908 shows the count at his desk with the clock in situ at his palace on the Hildesborg Estates, outside Landskrona, Sweden. It is not known how or when this clock came into the family; while it is conceivable that it was acquired direct from Knibb in 1670s by Admiral Count Wachtmeister, it is also possible that it came via Baron von Rehausen, perhaps bought when he was Swedish Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary to London in 1805-7, or even by descent from the Bulkeleys.

Wenceslaus Hollar (1607–1677)

Wenceslaus Hollar was born in Prague on 13 July 1607, and died in London on the 28 March 1677. His family was ruined by the capture of Prague in the Thirty Years War, and, although originally destined for the law, Hollar was determined to become an artist.

By 1627 he was in Frankfurt, working for the etcher and engraver Matthäus Merian, later moving to Strasbourg, and then to Cologne in 1633. It was there that he attracted the attention of the famous English art collector Thomas Howard, 14th Earl of Arundel, then on an embassy to the imperial court. Hollar travelled with the Earl to Vienna and Prague finally arriving in England in 1637. Though he lived in the Earl’s household, he also worked for various publishers. For one book seller he produced a view of Greenwich, nearly a yard long, but only received thirty shillings for the work, being paid just four pence an hour, his time measured apparently by an hourglass.

The Civil War caused Lord Arundel to leave England in 1642, so Hollar worked for the Duke of York, and took lodgings at Larkhall, near Stockwell. He served in a royalist regiment during the Civil War and was taken prisoner at the siege of Basing House in 1643, Hollar was imprisoned with another engraver, William Faithorne, as well as the architect Inigo Jones and, perhaps critical to our horological story, his pupil John Webb, recently deduced as the designer of Ahasuerus Fromanteel’s first architectural clock cases. This placed Hollar within ‘Fromanteel’s circle’ and furthermore, Hollar’s main English patron was the grandfather of Henry Howard, 6th Duke of Norfolk and Earl of Arundel (1628–1684) who commissioned the Norfolk Fromanteel, the earliest recorded complete longcase clock.

On release Hollar joined Lord Arundel in Antwerp, where he stayed for eight years producing some of his finest work. In 1652 he retuned to London and shared lodgings for a time with his former prison mate, Faithorne, near Temple Bar. He illustrated several books and also worked for Elias Ashmole, whose cabinet of curiosities was to form the basis of the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford. Hollar’s fortunes did not fundamentally improve and his employers, probably by this time including Fromanteel and Samuel Knibb, continued to pay low prices for his excellent work. The Restoration did not improve his position, and in the great plague he lost his son, a promising young artist. After the Great Fire of 1666 he produced his famous Views of London.

In 1668 the king sent Hollar to Tangier to draw the town and its forts. England had acquired the Moroccan port as part the dowry when Charles II married Catherine of Braganza, and it remained in English hands until 1684. On his return to England, Hollar etched the battle scene in which the ship he came back on, the Mary Rose, successfully fought against seven Algerian pirate men-of-war. He also produced the large plate of Edinburgh (dated 1670) that is widely regarded as one of the greatest of his works. From this time on, he appears to have started his employment on horological backplates for Samuel Knibb’s nephew, Joseph; these are some of the first fully engraved backplates and Hollar’s style is recognisable on almost every Phase I spring clock known. It is interesting to note that Hollar’s death in 1677 also coincided with Knibb’s shift away from larger Phase I spring clocks to the smaller Phase II and III examples, which no longer show his influence. Hollar died in extreme poverty, his last recorded words being a request to the bailiffs that they would not carry away the bed on which he was dying.

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Product Description

Joseph Knibb’s Phase I spring clocks were the first made to his own specific design and were all probably produced within eight years of him setting up his business in London in circa 1670; all share the same case style, but they are often mechanically quite different, displaying Knibb’s renowned array of strike variations, and unusual escapement; in this instance Roman notation striking and a tic-tac. By the latter part of the 1670s, Knibb started to evolve his spring clocks making them smaller; the first Phase II example was dated 1677, and marked a shift away from this earlier style.

The original fire-gilding to the present backplate is particularly beautiful, but also a costly and early attribute, although the first of Knibb’s Phase II spring clocks retain this expensive feature, by the late 1670s, and the introduction of his Phase III clocks, Knibb had essentially dispensed with it.

The Count Gotthard Wachtmeister af Johannishus (1834-1920), and predecessors

The Count Gotthard Wachtmeister was Governor of Malmöhus County, on the southern tip of Sweden, from 1880 to 1892. The Swedish title, Count Wachtmeister af Johannishus, was bestowed in 1687 on Hans Wachtmeister (1642-1714), admiral of the whole Swedish Navy and advisor to two Kings, Charles XI and Charles XII.

Gotthard was the son of Francese Lovisa von Rehausen (1803-1837) and Count Carl Johan Wachtmeister (1793-1843). Francese Lovisa was the daughter of a Swedish diplomat, Baron Gotthard Mauritz von Rehausen (1761-1822), the Minister Plenipotentiary in London, and Harriet Louisa Bulkeley (1776-1834). Harriet’s father, John Bulkeley (d.1803) was a Member of The British Factory of Lisbon and amassed a fortune. Between 1757 and 1776, Parr & Bulkeley were the leading merchants in Lisbon’s trade with the British North American colonies. Over this period they handled 185 of the 1,040 vessels, more than double the business of any other firm, accounting for one third of all of the grain and flour coming into Lisbon, but they also traded other cargoes of Newfoundland fish and Carolina rice. By the time John Bulkeley died in 1803, he left an estate worth over £300,000.

A black and white photograph taken in 1908 shows the count at his desk with the clock in situ at his palace on the Hildesborg Estates, outside Landskrona, Sweden. It is not known how or when this clock came into the family; while it is conceivable that it was acquired direct from Knibb in 1670s by Admiral Count Wachtmeister, it is also possible that it came via Baron von Rehausen, perhaps bought when he was Swedish Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary to London in 1805-7, or even by descent from the Bulkeleys.

Wenceslaus Hollar (1607–1677)

Wenceslaus Hollar was born in Prague on 13 July 1607, and died in London on the 28 March 1677. His family was ruined by the capture of Prague in the Thirty Years War, and, although originally destined for the law, Hollar was determined to become an artist.

By 1627 he was in Frankfurt, working for the etcher and engraver Matthäus Merian, later moving to Strasbourg, and then to Cologne in 1633. It was there that he attracted the attention of the famous English art collector Thomas Howard, 14th Earl of Arundel, then on an embassy to the imperial court. Hollar travelled with the Earl to Vienna and Prague finally arriving in England in 1637. Though he lived in the Earl’s household, he also worked for various publishers. For one book seller he produced a view of Greenwich, nearly a yard long, but only received thirty shillings for the work, being paid just four pence an hour, his time measured apparently by an hourglass.

The Civil War caused Lord Arundel to leave England in 1642, so Hollar worked for the Duke of York, and took lodgings at Larkhall, near Stockwell. He served in a royalist regiment during the Civil War and was taken prisoner at the siege of Basing House in 1643, Hollar was imprisoned with another engraver, William Faithorne, as well as the architect Inigo Jones and, perhaps critical to our horological story, his pupil John Webb, recently deduced as the designer of Ahasuerus Fromanteel’s first architectural clock cases. This placed Hollar within ‘Fromanteel’s circle’ and furthermore, Hollar’s main English patron was the grandfather of Henry Howard, 6th Duke of Norfolk and Earl of Arundel (1628–1684) who commissioned the Norfolk Fromanteel, the earliest recorded complete longcase clock.

On release Hollar joined Lord Arundel in Antwerp, where he stayed for eight years producing some of his finest work. In 1652 he retuned to London and shared lodgings for a time with his former prison mate, Faithorne, near Temple Bar. He illustrated several books and also worked for Elias Ashmole, whose cabinet of curiosities was to form the basis of the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford. Hollar’s fortunes did not fundamentally improve and his employers, probably by this time including Fromanteel and Samuel Knibb, continued to pay low prices for his excellent work. The Restoration did not improve his position, and in the great plague he lost his son, a promising young artist. After the Great Fire of 1666 he produced his famous Views of London.

In 1668 the king sent Hollar to Tangier to draw the town and its forts. England had acquired the Moroccan port as part the dowry when Charles II married Catherine of Braganza, and it remained in English hands until 1684. On his return to England, Hollar etched the battle scene in which the ship he came back on, the Mary Rose, successfully fought against seven Algerian pirate men-of-war. He also produced the large plate of Edinburgh (dated 1670) that is widely regarded as one of the greatest of his works. From this time on, he appears to have started his employment on horological backplates for Samuel Knibb’s nephew, Joseph; these are some of the first fully engraved backplates and Hollar’s style is recognisable on almost every Phase I spring clock known. It is interesting to note that Hollar’s death in 1677 also coincided with Knibb’s shift away from larger Phase I spring clocks to the smaller Phase II and III examples, which no longer show his influence. Hollar died in extreme poverty, his last recorded words being a request to the bailiffs that they would not carry away the bed on which he was dying.

Additional information

Dimensions 5827373 cm