Impressive antique Austrian champlevé enamel, silver-gilt and lapis lazuli clock set
Austrian, Late 19th century
Clock: Height 91cm, width 37cm, depth 37cm
Candelabra: Height 64cm, width 24cm, depth 24cm
Clock case: Height 97cm, width 44cm, depth 41cm
Candelabra case: 67cm, width 27cm, depth 27cm
Crafted in Austria in the late 19th century, this magnificent three-piece clock set was most likely gifted to the Imperial Russian family by the Austro-Hungarian Royal family. Its design is inspired by various cultures and styles, whilst its high quality celebrates some of the best craftsmen of the late 19th century.
Of a tiered pagoda shape, the clock is surmounted by an eagle, its wings spread wide landing atop a vibrant lapis lazuli ball. The eagle is most likely a reference to Turul, a mythological animal which is a symbol of Hungary. This bird of prey is also a popular feature within Turkish traditions.
Within a canopy, supported on four sturdy lapis lazuli pillars two prominent silver-gilt bells are hanging. These are carved with various motifs such as acanthus leaf design and connect to the clock mechanism below. The bells ring informing its users of the time.
All four sides of the piece are inset with a clock, an unusual feature on an object of this type and a testament to its highest quality. The inclusion of clocks on all sides signifies that the antique is aimed to be a centrepiece, admired from all sides. The dial is decorated using the champlevé enamelling technique, whereby ‘parcels’ are carved into the silver gilt and into which enamel is poured. The 12 numbers are coloured in black with a gold outline and are surrounded by a white circular background making them stand out and easy to read. The hour clock dial is cast in the form of a sun, while the minute hand is represented as the moon. The two motifs symbolise one’s bright and gloomy sides of existence.
The four corners around the clocks are mounted with three-dimensional female figures dressed in traditional garments from around the world. For example, one figure is dressed in typical Turkish clothing while another is influenced by Classical Greece. The large panels surrounding the clock and the figures are carved from lapis lazuli, a semi-precious stone coloured in vibrant and deep blue tones.
The third and largest panel of the pagoda-shaped clock is occupied by four larger panels filled with champlevé enamel illustrations. Most likely the panels depict spring, summer, autumn and winter embodied by Horae, the Greek goddess of the four seasons. The illustrations are surrounded by various silver-gilt and enamel mounts and the four corners are made to look like Corinthian columns. The numerous acanthus leaf motifs and other classical Greek and Rome references, demonstrate the artists’ desire to pay homage to these cultures’ rich heritage.
The base of the clock includes further vivid lapis lazuli panels framed by cream and gold borders. Foliate motifs are executed with female masks added in the middle. The clock stands on four acanthus leaf-shaped feet.
The two flanking candelabra are of a very similar design to the clock creating a cohesive narrative. A single column emerges from the stepped base, too of a pagoda-form from which four angular branches grow. The central column as well as the four branches terminate in candle holders and drip pans, each expertly decorated using the champlevé enamelling technique. All larger panels are mounted with the semi-precious blue stone. The bottom tier of the candelabra is decorated with various illustrations of, for example, a globe and a telescope. This design is in keeping with the design of the clock. Four lapis lazuli vases filled with silver gilt and enamel flowers are mounted on the four corners of the candelabra. These details as well as many others, are what make this clock set an extraordinary museum-worthy antique. Each level is divided by a very ornate roof, its shape reminiscent of ones traditionally found on Chinese pagodas.
Throughout all three pieces, tones of blue, orange, red, green, and yellow predominate creating an exciting, eye-catching and attention-grabbing final result.
This three-piece Austrian clock set comes with original leather, velvet lined cases, each one with metal handles for easier transport.
The design and execution are done in the style of a renowned Austrian maker, Karl Rössler, who specialised in the production of enamel, silver, and lapis lazuli decorative objects. Hermann Böhm, another Austrian artist of the late 19th century too produced objects of this type.
The rich and elegant conglomeration of cultures and styles, meticulous craftsmanship and attention to detail as well as the royal provenance make this a very impressive, desirable, and museum-worthy addition to one’s collection.