• the 4½ inch white enamel dial with openwork steel hands, Roman numerals, center seconds, signed Perigal Royal Exchange, London, the dial with silver spandrels inlaid with blue and green translucent enamel of foliate motif, the lower section of the spandrels further inset with two white enamel dials, one signed Chime/not Chime and the other with the names of the four tunes, break arch above painted with a country landscape inhabited by figures, the foreground pierced to reveal a procession of various gentlefolk and townspeople
• massive five pillar movement with three train fusee and verge escapement, backplate lavishly engraved with foliate scrolls issuing from a basket of flowers above the signature, quarter striking on two bells mounted to the backplate, the music work playing on a further nesting ten bells and ten hammers, the music released at the hour or at will by means of a pull at the base, further signed Francis Perigal, Royal Exchange, London
• of Gothic motif, the whole surmounted by a foral trellis cast dome suppported by an arcade of Gothic arches the arches enclosing a second group of automata comprising a parade of various ships centered by a fixed column of twisted glass rods representing water and rising from an octagonal base set with blue colored glass panels, the main body of the clock with recurring Gothic motif, the side panels further fitted with naively painted country scenes depicting figures of ladies and a gentleman meeting beside a monument, each side fitted with the final group of automata, now with automated birds flying overhead visible beneath glazed panels, the back panel pierced and cast with scrolling foliate ormolu door, the base with arcaded Gothic style gallery further against colored blue glass, the case mounted on substantial foliate scroll feet
Formerly in the Collection of Gustave Loup, Geneva
The present lot is illustrated in Chapuis, A. and Gelis, E., Le Monde des Automates, Vol. 1, p. 264, fig. 202. For other Chinese Market clocks from the collection of Gustave Loup owned by him during the same period, see ibid, pp. 256-258 and 260.
For another important clock for the Chinese Market from the Gustave Loup Collection and thought to have been purchased in China by Loup, see Sotheby's New York, Important English Furniture, Ceramics and Decorations, October 18, 2006, lot 372.
The design of this magnificent clock combines the creativity, opulence and novelty that characterize so many of the finest works of art destined for use by the Chinese emperors in the 18th century. The eye-catching performance of the figures on the dial and sides, accompanied by the music work and chiming bells still serves to astonish and amuse the present day connoisseur, as it did over two hundred years ago when the clock was made.
Francis Perigal is listed as being made a Freeman of the Clockmakers' Company in 1770 and Master in 1806. He was clockmaker to the King and considered a fine clock maker who specialised in musical automaton clocks for the Chinese and Turkish markets. He died in 1824.
It is interesting to note that an example similar to this clock by Perigal is in the Palace Collection, Beijing. For illustrations of that clock, see Timepieces of the Collection from the Palace Museum, from the 2004-2005 exhibition at the Museum of Art in Macau, p. 61 and Timepieces Collected by Qing Emperors in the Palace Museum, p. 198.
The provenance of the present clock is perhaps as interesting as the clock itself. Much has been written about the export of European watches and clocks to China, however, less is known about those individuals who reversed the trade and brought these masterpieces back to the West.
Gustave Loup was well-known in horological circles in the early 20th century for his impressive Chinese market collection and his unmatched knowledge of horological export to China. Following his death, little is known about what became of his collection and his contribution to this market fell somewhat into obscurity. The renewed focus on Chinese market pieces by modern collectors brings new attention to this fascinating figure.
Much of what is known of Loup is based largely on the scholarly writings of Alfred Chapuis, the famed Swiss horological author and scholar working in the first half of the 20th century. He met Loup in Geneva in 1914 and viewed his astonishing collection for the first time. Subsequently, the two became good friends and collaborators and in 1919, they published Le Montre Chinois, which features more than 70 watches from Loup's personal collection.
Chapuis notes that "his collecting reversed that trade and brought back to Switzerland a collection as the living and sumptuous witnesses of the Art of Western ancient artisans and watchmakers."
Loup was born in the late 19th century to a Swiss watchmaking family living in China. At the time of his birth, it is thought the family was based in Tianjin. His father Pierre was living and working for Vaucher Frères in Hong Kong as early as 1859. In 1881, the family purchased Vrard & Co., which had premises in Tianjin and Beijing. Gustave Loup was thus uniquely positioned to enjoy a century's worth of horological works exported from England, Switzerland and France to China and figures prominently in the story of the Western repatriation of Chinese market horological masterpieces.
During Loup's life, parts of his 200 piece collection were displayed in several important museums and exhibitions in Switzerland: The Museum of Decorative Arts in Geneva, 1914; The Retrospective Exhibition of the Fair of Watch-making in Geneva, 1920; Display Rooms of Watch-Making, La Chaux-de-Fonds, 1932-33. In the La Chaux-de-Fonds exhibition, Chapuis described Loup's pieces as 'enlivened with automata and displaying amusing effects.'
Loup finally settled in Geneva following years of shuttling between Swizerland and China. His last trips east occurred between 1922-1925 and 1928-1930. Chapuis notes that he devoted these trips to enriching his collection. Loup's knowledge was so respected in China at the time that he was asked twice to be a horological conservator of the Palace Museum. Though he declined these offers, he later regretted the decision, thinking he could have exerted an influence to keep the Palace Collection intact.
From the time the first clocks were brought to China from Europe around 1582, the Chinese Emperors were fascinated with European mechanical clockworks. As objects of curiosity and items of luxury, these early clocks incorporated mechanisms including music and animated figures. European clocks were called 'zimingzhong' or 'self-sounding bells' by the Chinese for their musical chimes and striking bells and were received by the Qing court with great enthusiasm. The demand was such that a workshop dedicated solely to Western-style clocks was established by the Kangxi Emperor (r. 1662-1722) among the Palace workshops which was to be the beginning of a native clockmaking industry. With the help of Jesuit missionaries who supplied the technical knowledge and skills, Chinese clockmakers were trained and soon Chinese-made pieces joined the clocks that continued to arrive from the West.
Contemporary sources suggest that by the end of the first quarter of the eighteenth century, clocks in the Palace numbered in their thousands. The Qianlong Emperor (r. 1736-1795) in particular was an avid collector of all types of timepieces and automatons and his enthusiasm for both European and Chinese-made clocks and watches was limitless. He had thousands of European and Chinese clocks in his collection that were aimed at mesmerizing the beholder and prized for their novelty and design. More than 4,000 examples existed in the Imperial Palaces and their chiming was heard throughout the day.
These magnificent timepieces rank among the most extravagant clocks ever made, combining Western and Chinese decorative elements. The cases, of highly decorative ormolu, were often further embellished with brightly colored enamels and paste gems, the rich designs matching equally elaborate and complex clockworks and mechanical movements including musical movements and automata. Representing the Emperor's power and status, they were also regarded as the epitome of 'Western' style and design. By the middle part of the eighteenth century, the fashion for Western clocks had disseminated from the Imperial Court to the elite of Chinese society, often rivaling the Emperor's own collection of clocks.
Many of these magnificent timepieces were inspired by the fabulous musical and automaton clocks commissioned by the English clockmaker James Cox. A large number of his works were exported to the Far East during the second half of the 18th century. While Cox's fortunes declined in the later part of the 18th century, Chinese artisans in the port city of Guangzhou studied the Western pieces in order to simulate the technique of making clock movements in the English manner while incorporating Chinese elements. These skilled workers were then recruited by the Imperial workshops in the Forbidden City to meet the increasing demand for clocks and automatons, which were often sent as tributes to the Qing court by high-ranking members of society seeking Imperial favors.
Sotheby's gratefully acknowledges scholar Ian White for his research on Loup in his larger studies of English clockmakers trading to Chinese and Ottoman Markets, 1580-1815, as well as Marie Rochel of the Musée International d'Horlogerie, La Chaux-de-Fonds.
Please call 1-800-555-5555 to order a print catalog for this sale.
Online Registration to Bid is Closed for this Sale. Would you like to watch the live sale?Watch Live Sale