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James Cox (c.1723–1800) Goldsmith and Entrepreneur: James Cox, of 103 Shoe Lane, London, is most famous today for the elaborate musical clocks and automata that he produced and exported to China and other countries in the second half of the eighteenth century, some of which were exhibited in his celebrated museum of automata in Spring Gardens, Charing Cross from 1772 to 1775. Many of his products were very large – as demonstrated by the numerous clocks in the Palace Museum, Beijing; the ten-foot high life-size Peacock Clock, with its clockwork-driven automata, which was brought to Saint Petersburg in 1781 and is housed in the Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg; and the life-size swan automaton with silver plumage in the Bowes Museum, Barnard Castle.
However, Cox himself was not a clockmaker by trade but a goldsmith and a jeweller, producing many smaller articles in his own Shoe Lane workshop or through other craftsmen working to his designs. On his trade card bearing the London address ‘At the Sign of the Golden Urn’, James Cox proclaimed himself a goldsmith who: ‘Makes Great Variety of Curious Wares in Gold, Silver and other METALS. Also, Amber, Pearl, Tortoiseshell and Curious Stones’. The most characteristic of these smaller pieces were necessaires, snuffboxes and caskets made of agate panels held in gold or gilt-metal cage-work. These luxury articles, which occasionally incorporated musical movements and watches, were sometimes used as elements in his larger compositions. As well as being exported, such pieces were sold in the domestic market. Whilst related articles were made by other London jewellers at this period, like the Barbot family, Cox was the main producer of articles in this style.
A distinctive feature of Cox's work was the way in which he often brought together complete components to create larger and more impressive objects. This modular approach to design and manufacture was not just employed in his larger pieces but can also be seen in smaller articles like necessaires and small musical clocks. Such pieces can have several elements, as with this piece, which combines a hand mirror with a looking glass.
Bibliography: Clare Vincent and J. H. Leopold, ‘James Cox (ca. 1723–1800): Goldsmith and Entrepreneur’ in the ‘Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History’ (New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, November 2008, http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/jcox/hd_jcox.htm).
|Height||19.00 cm||(7.48 inches)|
|Width||8.50 cm||(3.35 inches)|
|Depth||2.20 cm||(0.87 inches)|
Thomas Coulborn & Sons
64 Birmingham Road
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