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Patinated and Gilt Bronze Mounted Marble Mantel Timepiece
Offered by Thomas Coulborn & Sons
Benjamin Vulliamy (1747-1811): Benjamin Vulliamy was the son of Justin Vulliamy, a clockmaker of Swiss origin, who moved to London around 1730. He developed a reputation as a builder of mantel clocks and his talent earned him a Royal Appointment in 1773, through which he received an annual endowment of £150 as George III’s King Clockmaker. This is one of a number of clocks with sphinxes in the Egyptian taste that were designed and made by Vulliamy around 1800. They were made to three different designs over a relatively short period. At this time, Egypt had risen to prominence due to Napoleon's campaign in Egypt from 1798-1801 which lead to Nelson's victory at the Nile in 1798. Subsequently, there was a great survey and publication of Egyptian antiquities by Dominique Vivant Denon, making the symbols of Ancient Egypt highly fashionable across Europe.
Vulliamy's first design is ornamented with two sphinxes, an eagle and a large Wedgwood medallion: there is an example dating from 1799 in the British Museum (No. 308). His third design, which is in a more highly developed Egyptian style based directly on the illustrations in Denon's book, uses four sphinxes of a different and smaller model, as well as other ornamental mounts taken from Denon. An example is No. 438, now in the Victoria and Albert Museum, which was made in 1807-08.
Vulliamy No. 407 is an example of Vulliamy's second design and was completed in 1806. It uses the same model of sphinx as the first type, but with some modifications, including a tail. In this form, the sphinxes replace the more familiar pair of lions which Vulliamy used on many of his ornamental clocks of this period, in a style recalling the imperial grandeur of Rome, rather than the "Greek" neo-classicism of his earlier ornamental clocks with figures in biscuit porcelain.
Vulliamy's business records reveal that he used his usual network of independent craftsmen to make this clock. They included Houle for casting and chasing the two sphinxes at a cost of £4 and the clockmaker Jackson for the movement for which he charged £5-10s. The largest individual item was the marble case, which was supplied by Day for £7-7s. The clock was delivered to Miss Bull on 28th March 1806 for the considerable sum of 50 guineas (£52-10s). Five years later, on 11th December 1811, it was returned to Vulliamy to be cleaned and fitted with a "new enamel dial with gold hours" - presumably the one it still has. The customer was a Mrs. Gordon, who was perhaps the former Miss Bull or a relative.
‘March 28th 1806 Del to Miss Bull’
Recorded in 'The Vulliamy Records' published by The Vulliamy Company, 1797 – held by the British Horological Institute.
The National Archives, C104/58, Vulliamy Day Book 34.
|Height||25.00 cm||(9.84 inches)|
|Width||42.00 cm||(16.54 inches)|
|Depth||8.50 cm||(3.35 inches)|
Thomas Coulborn & Sons
64 Birmingham Road
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