Provenance: Wuppertaler Museum, Germany, acquired 1952. The pair to the present clock belongs to the Sandoz Collection. Mr. Sandoz acquired the clock in 1952. It is now in the Musee de L'Horlogerie, Geneve, Inv. o. AD 431. The clock is illustrated and discussed in Les Automates by A. Chapuis & E. Droz, pp.119, fig.114 and in Automates et Musiques Pendules by Anne Winter-Jensen, item 5, pp. 22-27. During the second half of the 18th century, many musical and automaton clocks, watches, mechanical toys and objects of vertu were imported into China from England. The majority were destined for the Imperial Palaces at Peking, Yuan Ming Yuan and Jehol for the Emperor's delight. These pieces exhibited the fine workmanship and mechanical skill of their makers. The most gifted and prestigious of the London makers was James Cox, who in 1773 formed a museum of mechanical curiosities in Spring Gardens and subsequently sent the pieces to his shop in Canton. The clocks were extremely fanciful pieces, often adorned with mesmeric effects and invariably drawing their inspiration from ancient Chinese culture and symbolism. The present example is one of the most complicated examples known and apart from its mirror pair, the only example with a large automated elephant and a theater scene. It represents and embodies the perfect harmony of the sacred mountain of Taoism, being, then as now, an object of contemplation for scholars. The philosophical system of Taoism is derived chiefly from the Tao-te-ching, a book traditionally ascribed to Lao-Tze. It describes an ideal human condition of freedom from desire and of effortless simplicity, achieved by following the Tao, the spontaneous, creative, effortless path taken by natural events in the universe. From the Tao was generated qi, the constantly moving energy found in all things, as well as the two complementary forces of yin and yang. Later Taoism stressed the search for ffects, such as immortality, supposed to flow from the Tao, and encouraged the study of alchemy. The mythological Taoist sacred mountain connects heaven and earth and represents the Isles of the Blest, the abode of the immortals who reside in cavern-heavens dongtian the gateways to the spirit world. It is here where qi is most refined and where the ingredients for elixirs of longevity are found. The clock exhibits many forms of symbolism.Yin and yang is represented in the contrary rotating whirligigs in the lower tier, and on the higher tier by the gourd vase and tree peony showing the union of heaven and earth. The tree peonies on each tier are a symbol of spring, also expressed in the two miniatures on the side of the clock, and denote long life, riches and good repute. On the lower tiers the plants are in bud, but the uppermost is flowering, showing enlightenment and implying attainm nt of immortality. The paste-set bees adorning the proscenium of the theater and on the saddle of the elephant, are symbols of industry, purity and immortality and also denote a young man in love, the peony representing the girl. The theme is repeated again in the miniature paintings to the sides showing young lovers in springtime. The peach trees within the cavern are also symbolic of the coming of spring and bring happiness to newlyweds. The twisted trunk of the tree also represents longevity, the wood of which repels evil spirits. The elephant is a symbol of wisdom and of moral and spiritual strength. On other Chinese market clocks elephants are usually seen supporting the clock, in this example it is one of the main focuses, being placed above the immortals' grotto to represent the heavenly clouds. In this form, and given the fact that it is made of silver to represent an albino, it is considered particularly sacred. In addition the imagery of an elephant supporting a sacred gourd vase on its back conveys peace and harmo y. The theater scene opening to reveal the cavern depicts the three officials, and the eight immortals. The officials, standing at the top, are a triad of Taoist deities in charge of the three regions of the universe: heaven, earth, and water. They record people's good and bad deeds and determine their life span and destiny. The eight immortals, symbolizing longevity, are a group of legendary, semi-historical figures important in both religious and philosophical Taoism. They have been popularized i folklore, drama, and novels and frequently vary in artistic representations, each often shown with an attribute. Here they represents the conditions of human existence, youth, old age, poverty, wealth, the populace, nobility, masculinity and femininity. As they revolve on the carrousel they unveil scrolls on which are written blessings in old Chinese characters such as 'the Official of Heaven grants his blessing', 'Peace for all seasons' and 'You are gloriously appointed as the three blessings ervant'. The remainder raise hill-censers, po shan-lu, representing the fairy-mountain, and bamboo drums, the attribute of Chang Kuo. Literature: Simon Harcourt-Smith, Peiping 1933, "Catalogue of Various Clocks, Watches, Automata and other Miscellaneous Objects ." Hong Kong 1995, "Timepieces Collected by Qing Emperors in the Palace Museum."
3 very good
3 very good
HANDS 01 original
3* very good (overhaul recommended, at buyer's expense)
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