MASTERWORKS OF TIME
Golay (without a first name) is recorded at this Paris address between 1815 and 1817. He is described as ‘Horloger-mécanicien genevois. Repasse et habille les pièces compliquées. Fait des concerts mécaniques pour les pendules, les tabatières, des oiseaux mécaniques et des tableaux vivants’ (Tardy, Dictionnaire des Horlogers Français, Paris, 1971, p. 264).
The watch and musical controls are concealed behind the front lid. On the left is the enamel watch dial with gold hands indicating minutes and hours. To the right is another enamel dial indicating seconds. The panel also allows access to wind the musical movement, to control speed of the musical performance, to set the time, to wind the watch and to wind the singing bird mechanism. The gold stud to the left of the lid triggers the music.
The singing bird mechanism is driven by fusee, has circular bellows and is controlled by a stack of eight cams. The watch consists of a typical Swiss style cylinder movement with stopwork to the going barrel. The musical movement uses a pinned barrel plucking two stacks of nine teeth each.
The subject is taken from an engraving, of which an example survives in the British Library, lettered below the image: Engraved from an Original by Robt. Laurie. / London, Printed for R. Sayer & J. Bennett N0. 53 Fleet Street, as the Act directs 20 Decr 1776. The probably Dutch artist who painted the original picture from which it is taken is not known. Laurie (c. 1755-1836) was a respected author of mezzotints who eventually took over Sayer's publishing business. The subject is said possibly to represent Hagar and Ishmael's banishment from Abraham's house but it seems unlikely since Ishmael was supposed to have been old enough to tease his younger half-brother Isaac thus causing Sarah, Abraham’s wife, to demand the expulsion.
The horloger David Rochat (1746-1812) of Le Brassus in the vallée du Joux worked at the end of the 18th century with his three sons Jacques François Elisée (1771-1836), David Frédéric Henri (1774-1848) and Henri Samuel (1777-1854), supplying the firm of Jaquet-Droz & Leschot with singing bird parts and also spending some time at Frédéric Leschot’s workshop in Geneva. The brothers then set up an independent business in Geneva and subsequently with other members of the extended family to produce singing bird movements of the highest quality. As with Leschot, their casemaker of choice was Jean-George Rémond (Hanau 1752- Hanau 1830) who during his long career in Geneva registered his last firm, Rémond, Lamy, Mercier & Co., in 1811. For further information about Rémond, see Haydn Williams ed., Enamels of the World - The Khalili Collections, London, 2009, pp. 295-301.
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