Lot 9
  • 9

An Italian gilt-bronze mounted pietre dure and ebony clock, Galleria dei Lavori, Florence early 18th century

150,000 - 250,000 GBP
229,250 GBP
bidding is closed


  • ebony, pietre dura
the ebony veneered case of tabernacle shape surmounted by a broken pediment, flanked by scrolls above white chalcedony composite columns on plinths, each in turn surmounted by a square amethyst, the base mouldings and capitals in chased fire-gilded bronze, the pediment, pedestal and sides decorated with gilt-bronze framed pietre dure panels with flowers and intertwined scrolled foliage, the clock face centred by a bird pecking at a piece of fruit amongst scrolled foliage, above a rectangular frieze of pietre dure concealing a drawer with another smaller drawer in the upper section of the base, the round brass movement and verge escapement with a conoid held in place by animal gut, a striking mechanism which rings six times with a bell and the original key, the movement signed Francesco Papillion In Fiorenza



A. González-Palacios Il tempio del Gusto Vol. I, p.46, see note 22; Vol. II.
E. Morpurgo, Dizionario degli orologiai italiani, Milan, 1974, p. 129.

Catalogue Note

Very little is known about this clockmaker who registered as a master of his craft in 1705 in Florence and whose signature also appears on an alarm clock in the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, a double-case pocket watch in the Ilbert Collection and a handsome night clock in a Milanese collection. Given the very high quality of the case of this clock it is justifiable to suppose that Papillion also worked for the Galleria dei Lavori.   

We know of other similar clocks to this one made in the Galleria dei Lavori under Cosimo III.  There is a clock in the Gilbert Collection (now in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, which I was able to identify when it was in Los Angeles).  Made of ebony, gilt-bronze and pietre dure, it was originally surmounted by an alabaster niche which is now missing, and was probably made to the design of Foggini, who was personally responsible for a number of bronze ornaments.  The case would have been made by the cabinet maker Leonardo van der Vinne.  It belonged to Anna Maria Luisa, daughter of Cosimo III who became Electress Palatine.  Another clock, in an ebony case with pietre dure decoration, surmounted by three gilt-bronze figures by Foggini (to whom is also attributed the design of the object), is in the Bulgari collection in Rome.  A third clock, which is in the collection of the Residenz in Munich, is the work of Foggini and the cabinet maker Adamo Suster and is datable to  about 1705.  It has amethyst columns and a medallion above containing a portrait in pietre dure of the Electress Anna Maria Luisa.

It is worth noting that the year before Papillion registered as a clockmaker in Florence, work was being carried out on a clock in the Galleria dei Lavori.  I have found some records of payments for it:  in March 1704, 'A Leonardo van der Vinne Ebanista... spese Ebani e Granatiglie... che deve servire per l'Oriuolo ch va facendo', ['To Leonardo van der Vinne, Cabinet maker...  expenditure on ebony and granatiglia... which is needed for the clock that is being made'].  On 14 and 15 April and on 5 May 1704 further payments to the same craftsman are recorded.  On 25 June 1704 comes another order of payment, 'A Leonardo van der Vinne... a spese di Ebanisteria per tanti sono... e Alessandro Patriarchi intagliatore per l'aver intagliato N.2 mensole d'Ebano che vanno all'orologio di Granatiglia' , ['To Leonardo van der Vinne... expenses for a number of items of cabinet making ... and Alessandro Patriarchi, carver for having carved two supports of ebony which are for the clock made of Granatiglia'], and finally, on 24 November 1704 an order of payment to, 'Leonardo van der Vinne a spese di Ebanisteria... pagate al Patriarchi Intagliatore per due Scartocci d'Ebano per l'Orologio che va facendo' , ['Leonardo van der Vinne for expenses for cabinet making... paid to Patriarchi, carver, for two cartouches of Ebony for the Clock that is being made'].  All the documents are in the Archivio di Stato, Florence, Guardaroba 1123, cc. 5r, 6r, 6v and 8v).

It is difficult to say whether these documents could refer to the clock illustrated here, given that they do not describe it fully and that they mention another wood, granatiglia, besides ebony.  However granatiglia is in fact a lighter-coloured variety of ebony or palisander and with the passing of time and build-up of dust the two woods eventually acquire the same colour.  One thing, however, is certain:  this clock was definitely made in the grand-ducal workshops at the beginning of the eighteenth century, probably at the same time as Papillion registered as a master of clockmaking in Florence in 1705.  Leonardo van der Vinne was probably responsible for making the case, as he was usually involved with this sort of task.  The pietre dure work, would have been entrusted, as we know, to a number of craftsmen who were paid by the week.  The bronze ornament was Foggini's responsibility.  Finally it should be noted that there is only one other clock of such quality from the grand-ducal Galleria dei Lavori which retains its original movement, now in the Getty Museum.