An Exceptional Palace Wall Regulator of One Month Duration
An Exceptional Palace Wall Regulator of One Month Duration
An Exceptional Palace Wall Regulator of One Month Duration
An Exceptional Palace Wall Regulator of One Month Duration
An Exceptional Palace Wall Regulator of One Month Duration
An Exceptional Palace Wall Regulator of One Month Duration
An Exceptional Palace Wall Regulator of One Month Duration
An Exceptional Palace Wall Regulator of One Month Duration
An Exceptional Palace Wall Regulator of One Month Duration

JOHN ARNOLD (c.1735-1799)

An Exceptional Palace Wall Regulator of One Month Duration

c. 1770 to 1780 London

Offered by Thomas Coulborn & Sons


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Probably made for the Court of Catherine the Great.

Provenance and History: The Russian Connections
Working backwards from the present day we know from the von Taube family that this extraordinary clock was in the possession of the von Taube family for many generations and that it came from the von Staals. It is not known for certain how or when the clock came into the possession of the von Staals, or when it came to the von Taubes. We do know that Carl Friedrich von Staal (1721-89) purchased the estate of Raykuell of Prince Peter Friederich Ludwig of Holstein-Gottorp in 1783, and that same estate passed to Otto von Taube in 1790.

Empress Catherine II may have known the Von Taubes through Gustavus II of Sweden. The Taube family were important in Germany at this period and another member of the family was born in Pavlovsk near St Petersburg and spent his life studying and writing Russian history.

The family remained influential and retained close connections with court in the nineteenth century.In November 1858, Captain Baron von Taube visited Nice in the Feodorovna a Russian military vessel. And we are also are aware that Baron Nicholas Danilow de Taube wrote a book on Catherine II.

Baron Mikhail Alexandrovich Taube (May 15, 1869, Pavlovsk, Russian Federation – November 29, 1961; Paris, France) was a famous Russian international lawyer, statesman and legal historian. Being a Catholic converted from Russian Orthodoxy, Taube came from an old Swedish-German family von Taube, known from the 13th century, one of the branches of Baltic Germans in the service of the Russian throne.

The movement:
Large barrel for one-month duration with chain fusée and Harrison’s maintaining power.
The half-second pendulum with Arnold’s five bar compensation with the middle and outer bars of steel and the intermediary bars of brass and zinc. The escape wheel of steel with jewelled pallets (one replaced). This is the only recorded month-going spring driven regulator by John Arnold. The mechanism exhibits the highest standard of chronometer work that is found in the pocket chronometers for which Arnold became famous.

The dial: The dial of white enamel and numbered in the style of Arnold’s finest pocket chronometers. The centre signed, ‘John Arnold London’.

The Clock maker: John Arnold (1735/6 -1799): ‘On June 4th 1764, the celebrated watchmaker, Arnold, of Devereux Court, in the Strand, presented to George III. A curious Lilliputian repeating Watch. (….) Some time after, the Emperor(sic) of Russia, having heard of the King’s watch, offered Arnold one thousand guineas if he would make another like it for him.’ [Arnold received £500 from the King in recognition of his skills, but declined the offer from the Russian Emperor so as not to upset his Sovereign]. Edward J. Wood, Curiosities Of Clocks And Watches, p. 328 (London, 1866).

Arnold descended from a family of clockmaker/gunsmiths. He went to work in Holland and learnt to speak perfect German. After two years he returned to England and became a journeyman. Then in 1762 Arnold met William McGuire (A watchmaker of substance) who put money up to enable him to move to the Strand in London where he was to stay until 1769.
John Arnold became the principal regulator and chronometer maker of his day at a time when precision horology was transforming navigation and astronomy. He was introduced by George III to Queen Charlotte and her family and this may account for the Russian connection mentioned by Wood. The Astronomer Royal, Neville Maskelyne also patronised and recommended Arnold, and Arnold made a regulator with a similar pendulum for the observatory of the Elector Palatine in Manheim in 1779. Thus he was well respected in Russia and Germany. The Russians were preoccupied at this period in finding a solution to enable and enhance the reliable and exact navigation of the globe and Arnold would have been held in high esteem.

This would appear to be the only decorative wall regulator that Arnold made.

The Case and the Original Bracket:
Kingwood veneers over an oak carcass with mercury gilded and chased ormolu mounts. Inscribed on the reverse ‘O. v Taube’.

The Mounts: The ormolu mounts are exceptionally well executed, probably in the workshops of either Diederich Nicolas Anderson or Christopher Furlogh. The design of the mounts shows close association with the designs of both Charles Cameron (in his 1764 Album) – in particular one of the mounts on the Arnold clock case. See D. Shvidkovsky, 'The Empress and the Architect British Architecture and Gardens at the Court of Katherine the Great', Fig 4 Page 14.

The clock also shares a mount with the Four-dialled astronomical clock by Christopher Pinchbeck which was delivered in 1768 and is still in the English Royal Collection and was designed by Sir William Chambers and King George III. In particular the unusual design of the ormolu mount that surrounds the dome and on The Pavlovsk clock, the Morton Lee clock and the Pinchbeck clock is situated over red material. There is also a close similarity between the leafy swags on the Arnold clock and bracket and the mounts which adorn the central section of the barograph made by Alexander Cumming for George III in the Royal Collection.

Comparable Clock Cases:
There is another almost identical clock case at Pavlovsk Palace with a musical movement by Peter Torckler. (Pavlovsk is an 18th-century Russian Imperial residence built by Paul I of Russia on land gifted to him by his mother Catherine the Great in Pavlovsk, near Saint Petersburg). The Palace was largely designed by Catherine’s official architect, Charles Cameron. This clock now stands without its bracket in the Music Room at Pavlovsk (see illustration) but according to Olga Bajenova, the Curator of Decorative Arts at Pavlovsk Palace it had also formed part of the furnishings of the rooms of Tsar Nicholas I at Gatchina Palace and appears on an inventory there in 1862. Unfortunately earlier inventories were lost in World War II so it is not clear if the Pavlovsk clock began life there, and was then moved to Gatchina on the death of Pavel in 1801, to subsequently return.

A clock with a very similar form of case and mounts, but veneered with red tortoiseshell, and retaining its original bracket, was exhibited at Grosvenor House in the 1950s by H. Morton Lee described as: “A rare red tortoise-shell and ormolu 18th century English musical clock, by Peter Torckler, London. Circa 1770”.

Conclusion: It seems highly likely that the commission of the Pavlovsk clock by Torckler and this regulator by Arnold were closely connected in some way. The case and mounts are evidently made by the same workshop, and the families who have owned the Arnold clock worked in the service of the Royal Court. The Pavlovsk clock by Torckler was surely acquired by Paul and Maria Feodorovna who bought a total of ninety-six clocks in Europe for Pavlosk, and Paul was said to have offered Arnold 1,000 guineas to make a version of the King’s watch. Whether the Arnold clock was initially bought by a member of the Royal Family and given as a gift to von Staal, or whether as a member of Court and an admirer of the Pavlosk clock he commissioned it directly, will perhaps never be established. However, the connection with Royal Court is evident. The rarity of the movement and the departure from Arnold’s custom of plain undecorated cases indicate a special commission given to the leading precision horologist of the day.
Almost certainly commissioned by a member of the Russian Royal Family or the Royal Court, circa 1770-80. Brigadier Carl Friedrich von Staal (1721-89) Russian Brigadier in the service of Catherine the Great and in 1765 he was appointed guardian of her nephews Prince Wilhelm August von Holstein-Gottorfs and his brother Friedrich Ludwig. During an eight year period he guided them on a comprehensive educational tour of Europe after which he was promoted and gifted the estates of Konno and Kerkau in gratitude for services rendered. In 1790 Otto Heinrich von Taube inherits von Staal’s estate at Raykuell from his widow. Thence by family descent until sold Hampel Auctions, Munich, 1st July 2011.
Height 123.00 cm (48.43 inches)
Width 79.00 cm (31.10 inches)
Stock Code
The centre signed, ‘John Arnold London’. Inscribed on the reverse ‘O. v Taube’.
Thomas Coulborn & Sons

Thomas Coulborn & Sons
Vesey Manor
64 Birmingham Road
Sutton Coldfield
West Midlands
B72 1QP

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