PITTSFIELD, Mass. – A rare 18th century English-made pagoda form automaton musical clock, produced for the Chinese Qing Imperial Court, fell just shy of the $1 million mark when it sold for $998,250 (including buyer’s premium) at Fontaine’s Auction Gallery’s Antiques and Fine Art Auction, held Jan. 21. Absentee and Internet live bidding was available through LiveAuctioneers.
The clock (above) was magnificent: 50 inches tall (raised, on a large black wood block base). It weighed 100 pounds and had an engraved chessboard pattern brass top, with 5-inch painted metal dials on the front and both sides, and Roman hour numerals. The time movement triggered the automaton mechanism once every two hours, and the heavy bronze case had elegant color paste set jewels.
As beautiful as the clock was physically, it was equally enchanting musically. It played two tunes on a nest of eight bells, including the old Chinese folk song Mo Li Hau, which has been popular since the 17th century, in China and elsewhere. The pagoda animated every two hours, corresponding to the 12-hour Chinese time system, and the music played every two hours.
The case form was based on the Pagoda of Nanjing (or the Temple of Repaid Gratitude), built in the 15th century, during the Chinese Ming dynasty. Much of the structure was destroyed in the 19th century, during the Taiping Rebellion, but at nine stories it was one of the tallest buildings in China and called one of the Seven Wonders of the World.
The clock was the expected top lot in a sale that featured over 450 items, including a fine clock collection, watches, music boxes, 19th and 20th century lighting, period furniture, oil paintings, bronzes, estate jewelry, silver and accessories.
The auction grossed just over $1.64 million. Following are additional highlight from the sale. All prices quoted include a 21 percent buyer’s premium.
E. Howard & Co. (Boston) clocks, popular with collectors, are a staple at most Fontaine’s clock auctions, and this sale had several, to include a floor standing regulator, signed and dated 1891, with gravity escapement by H. Conant, that sold for $24,200.
Also, a Joseph Jennens oak nine-tube grandfather clock, 106 inches tall, with carved oak case attributed to R.J. Horner, hit $25,410.
A French industrial animated clock with a gilt brass case in the form of a vertical steam boiler, with moving parts animated by a spring-driven mechanism, mounted on a rouge marble base, brought $20,570.
A French figural mystery two-chain swinger clock with a standing cast metal figure of a woman wearing a floral crown and holding a bouquet of flowers, made $5,142.
A three-color Pairpoint Puffy Rose table lamp with 10-inch diameter reverse painted puffy shade with colorful roses on a green leafy background, on a molded spelter base with pyramidal poppy form, lit up the room for $9,377.
A pure white marble sculpture depiction of the mythological figure Diana, by Rafaello Battelli (Italian, 19th century), shown standing among a crescent moon and stars, 34 inches tall and signed, breezed to $19,360; and a large brown sculpture of two hounds (Pompier and Caron), tethered to a tree trunk, by Auguste Nicolas Cain (French, 1822-1894), 25 inches tall, signed, finished at $7,865.
Rounding out just some of the day’s top lots, a Gothic pierced bronze center coffee table (below) with a gilt bronze octagonal base with Gothic arches, finials and wavy pierced decorated panels, rose to $5,142; and a large figural walnut carved elk head with antlers, mounted with natural elk horns on a self-framed filigree carved back panel, carved by “H. Leach,” 56 inches tall, fetched $6,050.
For details contact Fontaine’s Auction Gallery at 413-448-8922 or email email@example.com.