Lot 143: A highly important Charles II small ebonised architectural eight-day...
March 11, 2014
Newbury, United KingdomLive Auction
A highly important Charles II small ebonised architectural eight-day...
A highly important Charles II small ebonised architectural eight-day longcase clock Joseph Knibb, Oxford, circa 1665-7 The six knopped, finned and latched pillar movement with tall 'bottle-shaped' plates measuring approximately 8 by 4.5 inches, the strike train with high position outside countwheel and early external vertical arbor for the hour hammer pivoted between a block riveted to the middle of the right hand edge of the backplate and a shaped bracket screwed to the upper right hand shoulder, the going train with bolt-and-shutter maintaining power and restored verge escapement with short bob pendulum, the 8.5 inch square latched brass dial centred with a five-petal rose engraved motif to the finely matted centre now with ring-turned decoration to the shuttered winding holes within 1 inch wide silvered Roman numeral chapter ring with stylised trident half hour markers and Arabic five minutes within the narrow outer track, with fine pierced sculpted steel 'Oxford' hands and spandrel areas engraved with unusual symmetrical foliate decoration incorporating a dog rose over pomegranate and other fruit, the lower two flanking signature Joseph Knibb of Oxford fecit engraved to the lower margin of the dial plate, the ebonised case with rising hood constructed of pine with ebonised fruitwood veneers and fine architecturally perfect mouldings, with triangular tympanum above plain lintel and square glazed dial aperture flanked by rectangular side windows with raised aperture mouldings, the interior with movement seatboard located immediately above the throat moulding and fitted with spoon locking lever, the trunk with convex throat moulding over full-width door veneered in ebonised fruitwood onto oak with central short between two long narrow vertical raised panels and applied with gilt brass eagle-head scroll cast escutcheon mount to the left hand margin within bolection moulded surround with mitred corners, the sides of plain ebonised pine, on conforming broken-ogee moulded plinth base with bun feet, 190.5cm (6ft 3ins) high. Provenance: Purchased in Evesham, Worcestershire by Henry Tate Moore probably in 1894. From circa 1931 at Tower Hill Manor, Gomshall, Surrey, subsequently inherited by the vendor from his grandmother's estate in 1972. Illustrated in Lee, Ronald A. The Knibb Family, Clockmakers page 24 (plate 10 - general view), page 56 (plate 52 - detail showing hood raised) and page 132 (plate 145 - view of movement); in Dawson, Percy G., Drover, C.B. and Parkes, D.W. Early English Clocks page 171 (plates 231 and 232 - general view and detail with hood raised). The image of the movement is also reproduced in Lee, Ronald A. THE FIRST TWELVE YEARS OF THE ENGLISH PENDULUM CLOCK plate 98 (at the end of the catalogue). Joseph Knibb was born the fifth son of Thomas Knibb of Claydon, Oxfordshire in 1640. He is generally thought to have been apprenticed in around 1655 to his cousin Samuel Knibb in Newport Pagnell, before moving to Oxford circa 1662 (the same year that Samuel moved to London). Joseph initially struggled to trade in Oxford due to restrictions placed by the City authorities which were only relaxed on payment of a fine in 1668. It was about at this time that Joseph Knibb would have issued his copper trade tokens (an example of which was sold in these rooms 10th February 2009, lot 104 for £1,600 hammer) as well looking to undertake work to convert the turret clocks of St. Mary the Virgin and Wadham College to anchor escapement with long pendulum. In 1670 Joseph moved to London handing over the Oxford business to his younger brother, John (see following lot). The reason for this move was probably to administer the estate of Samuel who is thought to have died by the summer of 1671. Joseph Knibb presumably took on Samuel's former workshop as by 1675 he was recorded as working from 'The Dyal' near Sargeants Inn in Fleet Street. By 1693 he had moved to 'The Clock Dyal' Suffolk Street, near Charing Cross. As Joseph became established in London his work became more individual/distinctive, often demonstrating an inventive and refined approach both in the detailing and specification of the movements and choice of case design. He is perhaps best known for his experimentation with alternative striking such as Dutch, Roman and double-six grande sonnerie as well as long duration clocks. In 1697 Joseph Knibb sold up the London business (presumably to Samual Aldworth, former apprentice of John Knibb of Oxford) and retired to Hanslop in Buckinghamshire where he died in December 1711. The current lot is an extremely rare survivor from Joseph Knibb's Oxford period and provides us with a unique insight into his working practices and influences as well as being a stylistic and technological 'snapshot' of early longcase clock development. This degree of rarity becomes clear when, in addition to the current lot, Ronald Lee in The Knibb Family, Clockmakers discusses only two other examples. A third longcase clock (with posted three-train quarter-chiming movement) is illustrated in ANTIQUARIAN HOROLOGY Vol. 31 pages 369-75. When these four surviving longcase clocks from Joseph's Oxford period are compared it becomes clear that they are all significantly different from each other; from this it would be reasonable to suggest that Joseph Knibb was undertaking a period of development and experimentation in his work during the latter half of the 1660's. Perhaps the most important example from this group is an eight-day example fitted with an experimental form of crossbeat escapement and long pendulum (illustrated By Lee in The Knibb Family, Clockmakers page 143) as this is arguably the earliest longcase clock to be fitted with a seconds period pendulum. The movement of the current lot exhibits strong evidence of connection with the London workshop of Ahasuerus Fromanteel (and possibly Edward East), as it can be directly compared to examples signed by each of these makers illustrated in Dawson, Percy G., Drover, C.B. and Parkes, D.W. Early English Clocks pages 124-5 (Plates 154-7). Both of these movements share bottle-shaped plates united by six finned pillars, high position external countwheel and vertical hammer arbor (mounted on the backplate) to the strike train; and verge escapement with short bob pendulum to the going train. Another related movement (but with fewer pillars), again by Ahasuerus Fromanteel, is illustrated on page 119 (plates 146-7). Ronald Lee in THE FIRST TWELVE YEARS OF THE ENGLISH PENDULUM CLOCK describes another similar movement by Ahasuerus (exhibit 7) as well as two others by his son, Johannes (exhibits 14 and 15, the latter illustrated in plates 44-5), although it is difficult to ascertain exactly how similar these movements are to the current lot from the information given. The obvious similarities between the movement of the current lot and these originating mainly from the Fromanteel workshop is indicative of a less inventive approach than seen in the other surviving clocks from Joseph's time in Oxford. From this it is perhaps reasonable to suggest that the current lot (due to it being made at a time when Joseph Knibb was conforming much more closely with his London-based contemporaries hence arguably before becoming more innovative in his approach) could possibly be the earliest surviving example made by Joseph Knibb. The proportions of the dial coupled with the distinctive engraved decoration and narrow chapter ring are a joy to behold. The rose engraved centre echoes that of the famous Samuel Knibb cupola table clock whilst the unusual symmetrical dog rose and fruiting foliate engraved spandrel decoration is essentially the same as seen on one of the other three Joseph Knibb 'Oxford' clocks (the thirty-hour key-wound quarter striking clock illustrated in Early English Clocks page 121 plates 148-9). This type of engraved decoration appears not to have been exclusive to Joseph Knibb as similar decoration is seen on a two clocks by Edward East; a hooded wall clock (illustrated in Early English Clocks page 164 plate 215) and an eight-day longcase clock in an architectural ebonised pearwood case (sold at Christies, King Street, 6th December 2006, lot 112). The hands are finely worked with the hour hand being of typical 'Oxford' pattern. The ring-turned decoration to the winding hole apertures is very finely executed and could be mistaken for being original, however, on stylistic grounds, it must be a later (probably 1690's) addition in order to 'update' the dial. If desired this ring-turning could be carefully removed to restore the original (as made) appearance of the dial. The case is of particularly fine slender proportions and of restrained appearance with finely worked architecturally perfect mouldings. The use of ebonised fruitwood for the veneers and mouldings onto a pine carcass (as well as lack of hood columns) is the same as for the case of the posted quarter-chiming clock by Joseph Knibb, Oxford (as illustrated in ANTIQUARIAN HOROLOGY Vol. 31 page 369). The full-width trunk door is unusual but essentially the same as seen on an ebonised case for an eight-day longcase clock by Johannes Fromanteel illustrated in Early English Clocks page 229 (the current lot is illustrated on the facing page). This case also lacks hood columns and has the same slightly short hood side windows with raised moulded surrounds as the current lot. The gilt brass scroll cast êgle-head' escutcheon applied to the trunk door is typical of those used by Knibb and Fromanteel during the architectural period. The current lot presents as a particularly rare and important example of an early architectural longcase made during the first twelve years of the pendulum clock. In addition to this it is one of only a handful surviving clocks made by Joseph Knibb during his time in Oxford and can be directly compared with examples originating from the workshops of the Fromanteel family and Edward East. Fine early Architectural longcase clocks rarely appear for sale at auction with only four offered in the last ten years or so; An ebonised pearwood eight-day clock by Edward East circa 1665-70 sold at Christies, London, 6th December 2006 (lot 112) for £355,200. A silver mounted ebony veneered eight-day clock by Ahaseurus Fromanteel circa 1670 sold at Bonhams, London, 15th December 2009 (lot 103) for £400,800. A small laburnum veneered eight-day clock by Edward East circa 1670 sold at Christies, London 23rd May 2012 (lot 350) for £313,250. A silver mounted eight-day ebony veneered example by Johannes Fromanteel sold at Christies, London 5th July 2012 (lot 6) for £385,250. IMPORTANT NOTES REGARDING THE CATALOGUING OF CLOCKS Movements, dials and cases: movements and dials are described as relating to the cases in which they are housed in one of the following three ways: the case.... we are of the opinion that the movement and dial started life in the current case. in a case we are of the opinion that the movement and dial are in a case of correct period and type (and may well be original to the movement and dial), however there is evidence to suggest that they may not have started out life together. now in a case we are of the opinion that the movement and dial are no longer in the original case or one of correct period and/or type. Pendulums, weights, winding and case keys: unless specifically indicated otherwise in the catalogue description it can be assumed that all clocks with cases are sold with the requisite pendulum and correct number of weights (where appropriate), however we cannot guarantee that they are original to the clock. We do not indicate in the catalogue description whether winding or case keys are present with any specific clock. As many clocks are consigned without keys please check with the department to establish whether they are present or not prior to bidding. Condition: due to the mechanical nature of clocks and the fact that most are of great age we cannot offer any guarantee as to whether they are in working order or free from major faults or restoration. Although we endeavour to catalogue items in a fair and informed manner, omission of any comments or observations regarding the condition or originality of a clock in the description does not necessarily indicate that it is free from significant faults, restoration or is in working condition. We would strongly advise any prospective purchaser to view the item in person or request a condition report and/or further images prior to bidding. Measurements: dial measurements are given in inches, other dimensions such as height are given in centimetres and inches. The measurement given for the height of a longcase clock excludes any removable finials in order to provide an approximate minimum ceiling height in which the clock can be accommodated.