Liao Pin ed., Clocks and Watches of the Qing Dynasty, From the Collection in the Forbidden City, Beijing, 2002.
The present clock is the opposing pair to an example sold Christie's Hong Kong, The Imperial Sale, Fine Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art, 7 July 2003, lot 589.
Ornately embellished figures of elephants made from various media were found in halls and throne rooms throughout the Imperial palaces. As such, it is not surprising to find an elephant used as decoration on a clock. The imagery of an elephant supporting a vase on its back forms the auspicious rebus, Daping Jingxian or Daping Youxian, conveying the message of peace and harmony. The present soapstone elephant may be compared with a spinach-green jade one, also dating from the 18th Century, standing fours-quare on a French ormolu base, from the Estate of Empress Friedrich, Schloss Friedrichshof, included in the exhibition Chinese Jade, Spink London, 1998, lot 23; with a Qianlong-period celadon jade elephant richly caparisoned with a gilt and enamel-inset harness and saddle supporting a pagoda surmount on its back, offered Christie's Hong Kong , 29 April 2002, lot 532; and with enamel and gilt-bronze examples in the Yangxindian, the Hall of Mental Cultivation, where the Emperor received his officials, illustrated by Yu Zhuoyun, Palaces of the Forbidden City, 1982, pls.78-79.
Elephant clocks in different forms and of English origin may also be seen in the Palace Museum in Beijing. For examples, see Liao Pin ed. op. cit., pp.120-121, pp.132-133 and pp.134-135.
A MAGNIFICENT IMPERIAL CHINESE ORMOLU, SILVER-PLATED, ENAMEL, PASTE-SET AND CARVED SOAPSTONE STRIKING, MUSICAL AND AUTOMATON 'ELEPHANT' CLOCK
The base section with a foliate cast plinth raised on scroll feet and set with multi-coloured paste gems, with a gadroon moulding above, decorated to all sides with red and green floral enamels and gold foils on a translucent blue basse-taille enamelled ground, the front set with the dial and flanked by multi-coloured paste-set and mirror-backed automaton catherine-wheels, the sides with pierced automaton panels painted with trees and flowers against a backdrop of automaton waterfalls (see below), the rear with three silk-backed pierced and engraved ormolu circular panels and applied with a paper inventory label 10;
18th Century, automaton, musical, striking, dial, Clocks, time-telling instruments, enamel, gold ground / ormolu, China, Qing dynasty (1644-1911)
Clocks, Marine Chronometers & Barometers
29 in. (73.5 cm.) high x 14¼ in. (36 cm.) wide x 10¼ in. (26 cm.) deep