Lot 13
  • 13

An ormolu, gold and agate-mounted musical automaton table clock, probably retailed by James Cox, London, circa 1765

200,000 - 300,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • brass, gold, enamel, wood, turtleshell
  • 48cm. 19in. high
2½-inch enamel dial signed Drury, London, tune selection lever at III and set on a broken-arch surround painted with a rural scene of an automaton windmill and a stag hunt with hounds whipper in a nd mounted huntsmen, the lower section with geese on a lake being chased by a dog, the three train fusee and chain movement with six vase-turned pillars, playing a Handel-style Minuet or March every three hours or at will, later conversion to lever platform escapement, the foliate engraved backplate signed John Drury, Londini Fecit, the case with domed top surmounted by a seated turbanned figure above pierced rococo fretwork panels, seated figures representing the four continents at the corners, the similarly decorated base with a door revealing a nest of three graduated velvet-lined drawers containing lidded jars, steel implements, a turtleshell brush and a mirror, the moulded base with lion mask feet  


Edmund de Rothschild, CBE, TD, Exbury
For further information on the de Rothschild family, see footnote to lots I & II.


Roger Smith, James Cox: a revised biography, Burlington Magazine, June 2000, pages 353-361

Catalogue Note

This magnificent clock is an extremely rare example of a series of necessaire clocks produced by James Cox and others during the third quarter of the 18th Century. Whilst other necessaire clocks have been recorded, those with automata and music usually have this feature incorporated into a separate base and these could easily be provided with or without the more expensive complications. It is therefore more common to find a necessaire alone or with an associated watch timepiece. In this clock the music and power for the automata are combined in the clock movement with the necessaire below providing a pleasing continuity of design flowing through the whole piece. Other examples of musical automata necessaires are to be found in major collections including The British Royal Collection, The Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg and The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York although none combine all of the features and designs displayed in this particular clock.

John Drury was apprenticed to his father, James, and was Free of the Clockmakers' Company in 1721. He worked at Red Lion Street, Clerkenwell. His son, James, was apprenticed to him in 1741 and was Free of the Clockmaker's Company in 1751. The Drury's premises in Red Lion Street were only half a mile from Cox's showrooms in Shoe Lane and perhaps the young James Drury was inspired by his contemporary, James Cox, to produce a clock, with his father, for this exciting new market. The casework for this clock has many close comparisons with the necessaire timepieces signed by Cox and it would appear that it was probably made in an associated workshop.

James Cox, 1723-1800, was apprenticed in 1738 to Humphrey Pugh a goldsmith and toyman in Fleet Street, London, and became Free in 1745 as a goldsmith. Almost immediately he went in to business on his own account producing extravagant objects with musical and automata complications. He quickly established a trade with the Far East but the business failed in 1758 and he was made bankrupt. However, Cox was able to retain his premises in Shoe Lane and by 1763 he was building a network of craftsmen and out workers to supply more fabulous items, this time to the newly emerging Indian market.