The gradual decline of the Qing Dynasty following the death of the Emperor JiaQing in 1820 heralded the end of a 150 year period of collecting magnificent clocks, watches and instruments by the Emperors and the Imperial Court. At its height, the Emperor Qianlong is thought to have owned some 4000 spread between the Palaces of Jehol, the Yuanming-Yuan and the Forbidden City in Peking. These included pieces made in the Imperial workshops established in Beijing, Guangzhou and Suzhou, in addition to the exceptional European clocks emanating mainly from London and also Switzerland. When the last Qing Emperor Puyi was obliged to abdicate and eventually leave the Forbidden City in 1924, this extraordinary collection had, despite much destruction and looting, remained virtually unseen and largely forgotten for many decades. Only when the Palace Museum was established in 1925 were the clocks able to be viewed. The first catalogue that brought a selection of them to public notice, certainly in the West, was written in 1933 by Simon Harcourt-Smith, an English diplomat working for the British Legation in Beijing and a considerable expert on Archaeology and Art. This rare book, illustrating and describing some 120 pieces, concentrates on clocks and objects from English makers. Reprinted below is the introduction that prefaces the descriptions, and provides an interesting, albeit brief history of the Collection as it was understood at the time.
Taste for clocks and other mechanical curiosities of the West seems to have invaded the court of China at an early date; already at the beginning of the fourteenth century a French ironsmith, Guillaume Boucher, probably a prisoner brought back from some Mongol raid into Hungary, had constructed for the first Yuan Emperor of China an elaborate clock with fountains; and when, in 1599, the great Jesuit missionary Matteo Ricci arrived in Peking he secured Imperial favour and an entry to the Court largely by a gift of clocks. It was, however, only at the end of the seventeenth century, in the reign of Kang Hsi, that clocks in great numbers began to invade the Palace. This enlightened monarch, who was filled with an admiration, rare in his dynasty, for the arts and sciences of Europe, welcomed learned Jesuit mathematicians and philosophers to his Court, and formed a collection of scientific instruments and time-pieces of all descriptions. So great in fact was his passion for horology, that the Society of Jesus, at the beginning of the eighteenth century, found it necessary to despatch to Peking an accomplished clockmaker, Father Stadlin, under whose direction a small factory for the manufacture of clocks and watches was set up within the Palace walls. From this time until the dissolution of the Order in 1773-4, there was always a Jesuit in charge of the Emperor's clocks. Yung Cheng did not share K'ang Hsi's liberal tastes, but Chien Lung; while affecting to despise the West, could not escape from inheriting in some part the romantic and speculative spirit of his grandfather. During his reign clocks and mechanical toys of beauty and ingenuity never before seen flowed into China from the West at the rate of some thousands a year. In the Imperial Palaces at Peking, Yuan Ming Yuan, and Jehol the passage of the hours was marked by a fluttering of enamelled wings, a gushing of glass fountains and a spinning of paste stars, while from a thousand concealed and whirring orchestras, the gavottes and minuets of London rose strangely into the Chinese air.
Lord Macartney during his Embassy to Peking in 1793 remarked the presence of European clocks in great quantities in all the Imperial halls and pavilions which he visited; and indeed at that time the Emperor's collection of clocks and watches must have been the finest in the world. In the last hundredyears, however, it has fallen upon somewhat evil days. Some of the finest pieces have been spoiled by clumsy restorations and inept additions; others have been broken beyond repair, and an enormous quantity destroyed or lost in the looting of Yuan Ming Yuan in 1860, that of the Forbidden City in 1900, and in the troubles of the last twenty years.
That part which remains, and which is briefly described in the accompanying catalogue, can therefore only represent but a fraction of Chien Lungs famous collection. With the exception of about six pieces, all the clocks and watches which I have been able to examine in the two museums are of a date subsequent to 1760; no traces can be found of Matteo Riccis clocks or of the pieces committed by Kang Hsi to the care of Father Stadlin, neither are there any remains of the clocks by the famous Vulliamy, mounted in Derby ware vases which were brought out to China by Lord Macartney as a present from George Ill.
Contrary to popular belief, hardly any of the pieces herein described are of French workmanship, or can have been presents from foreign governments to the Court of China; of the complicated and curious pieces, those signed COX are known to have originally formed part of that makers famous museum of mechanical curiosities exhibited in Spring Gardens in l773 and subsequently sent out to his shop in Canton, while the others were undoubtedly acquired through the intermedians of the East India Company at Canton.
The collection, although but a fragment of former glories, is nevertheless one of the most important of its kind in existence; it is at once a monument of English mechanical skill and fine workmanship, and a valuable document bearing on the history of Sino-European commerce in the eighteenth century.
The fact that most of the pieces extant have been preserved in such excellent condition, we have to thank firstly the dry air of Peking, and in no small measure the intelligent care and skill with which the clocks have been handled by the present Museum authorities; to them and to Mr. Yuan Tung-li, Director of the National Library, l must extend my thanks for assistance and encouragement in the compilation of this Catalogue.
Simon Harcourt-Smith Peking, January, l933.
Harcourt-Smith (Simon) A Catalogue of Various Clocks, Watches, Automata, and other miscellaneous objects of European Workmanship dating from the XVIIIth and the early XIXth Centuries, in the Palace Museum and the Wu Ying Tien, Peiping, Palace Museum Publication, 1933.
An exceptionally fine and rare jewelled quarter-striking and musical automaton clock, made by John Mottram, London, a recorded maker of clocks for the Imperial Court of China, Late Qianlong period, circa 1790
Gilt bronze, entirely decorated with geometric and floral designs in "taille-douce" engraving, the serpentine shaped rectangular platform base with applied floral motifs, and raised on four splayed feet. The single piece central section housing the movement, flanked on all sides by pierced and chased ogee scroll floral corner brackets, the front with an elaborate applied design of green, white, red and yellow pastes within silver settings. The sides with applied oval sound frets designed as a formal garland of sunflowers within a beaded surround and backed by red silk. The hinged back door panel similarly pierced and chased with a stylised scale pattern and silk backed. The top in the form of an oval dome, divided by reeded straps, the corners with urn-shaped finials on column bases. A turned column supports the drum-shaped top, similarly engraved and containing, within beadwork frames.
The automaton consisting of seven paste-set silver rosettes surrounding a larger central motif in red and white stones. Another rosette is placed in the domed cresting and terminates with a cone-shaped finial. During the passage of the music, all the rosettes spin on their own axis and rotate about the central motif which also revolves, along with the single rosette above and the cone finial.
White enamel (10cms. diam.) with Roman hour and Arabic five minute numerals. Polished gilt hour and minute hands terminated with spade points. Counterpoised centre-seconds. Clip-on glazed bezel set with blue and white pastes. Hands set by turning the white and red paste-set central flower below 6 o’clock.
Eight-day going three-train fusee movement with brass plates, the backplate with bright-cut engraved borders and signed John Mottram, London. Going-train with verge escapement, engraved back cock and cranked pendulum rod (to allow clearance of the winding square). Polished pendulum bob. Striking the hours with ting-tang striking of the quarters on two bells. Four tune musical train playing every three hours on a nest of bells, the desired tune set by means of a key square on the backplate. Access for winding through apertures in the edge of the back door normally covered by sliding covers for dust protection.
Overall Height 530 mm x 210 mm wide x 175 mm deep.
John Mottram, recorded as working in Warden Court, Clerkenwell Close, London between 1790 and 1808. Other sources give an earlier date of 1780. He appears to have specialised entirely in clocks for the Chinese Market as every publicly recorded clock signed by him is of this type. Certain of these exhibit characteristics that are common to one or two of his contemporaries, notably Henry Borrell (1795 - 1840). Borrell was a Huguenot from Geneva which supports the premise that a number of movements, parts, and indeed complete clocks were supplied to order from Switzerland, likely through the company of Jaquet Droz & Leschot, famous in their own right for the production of singing birds and automata. They were for a time in partnership with James Cox in London.
There can be no doubt that John Mottram supplied clocks to the Imperial Court of the Emperor Qianlong. Writing in his journal, Colonel Courtenay Clarke Manifold, a Staff Surgeon attached to the staff of General Gaselee in Peking in 1900 refers to the clock purchased by Colonel Rawlinson and subsequently shipped to Aldershot in England (A). This is the clock by Mottram that is now in the collection of the Royal Army Medical Corps (See Note 3. below). The clock was in the Palace of the Chinese Board of Admiralty (Haijun ramen), presumably the Palace of Prince Chun (Yixuan,1840 - 1891), appointed to head the Board in 1885, and inherited by his son, Prince Chun II ( Zaifeng, 1883 - 1951). If so, it was also the birthplace of the Guangxu Emperor.
(A) Sir Courtenay Clarke Manifold, The “all blaze” of life, private printing, pre 1914, pp.80-81
The present clock is one of the most sophisticated examples made by John Mottram. The serpentine shape of the case is a subtle advance on the standard rectangular form, the overall taille-douce (fine line) engraving is exceptional, and the jewelled decoration more extensive and elaborate than usual. In addition it has survived in perfect condition, with totally original gilding and stone work, and none of the poor repair work to the movement that can sometimes be found on complicated clocks of this type.
One of the four tunes is also of historical interest. It is the music from the globally recognised popular song For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow. Its earliest origins are unknown, but history relates, amongst others, that it was used by a French soldier to satirise the English General, the Duke of Marlborough following the Battle of Malplaquet (11 September 1709) “Malbrough s’en va-t-en guerre”. It was apparently a favourite of Marie Antoinette’s, who heard one of her maids singing it, and was subsequently included in Beethoven’s so-called Battle Symphony (Opus 91) of 1813, written to commemorate Wellington’s victory at the Battle of Vittoria. It was certainly well established as an English favourite by 1776 when it was first published (1.) Whatever its origins, it is now the second most popular song in the English language, following Happy Birthday to You.
Surviving important Clocks by John Mottram formerly in Peking:
Further surviving clocks of note by James Mottram include the elaborate pair of enamelled, musical and automaton pieces, which returned from China at the turn of the 20th. century, albeit by different routes. One was sold by Robersons' of Knightsbridge circa 1923 (2.), in an Exhibition of Chinese Market Clocks entitled Ten Wonderful Clocks, and is now preserved in the National Trust house of Anglesey Abbey, the former home of Lord Fairhaven. The pair to this clock is now in the possession of the Royal Army Medical Corps (3.) Another version of this clock is still preserved in the Palace Museum in Beijing. It is formed of only two tiers, but with similar decoration and automata, and although attributed to James Cox, is surely the work of John Mottram.
A second pair of Pagoda Clocks by Mottram also exist, and although of more sober design, they are of equally fine quality. One of these was also included in Robersons’ Ten Wonderful Clocks Exhibition, albeit wrongly attributed to James Cox (4.). The pair to this clock is in the Private Collection of the Getty family in California (5.).
A further clock by Mottram, slightly taller, but far less elaborate than the clock now offered for sale was sold in the exceptional auction of Magnificent Clocks for the Chinese Imperial Court from the Nezu Museum by Christies in Hong Kong, 27 May 2008, Lot 1512 (6.).
(1.) Longman, Lukey, & Broderip Bride's Favourite Collection of 200 Select Country Dances, Cotillons, 1776; Part IV, p. 92 (appears as "La Malbro”).
(2.) Robersons, Ten Wonderful Clocks, Private Printing, circa 1924, items X 328, introduced in the catalogue as follows: “The collection was gathered by an Irish gentleman during the course of his world travels before the Great War. In Peking, Teheran, St. Petersburg, Lahore and many other Eastern towns this gentleman made his purchases, paying fabulous prices, and he kept them for several years in his home in Danzig. At the outbreak of war he returned with them to Ireland…”
(3.) Ian White, English Clocks for the Eastern Market, AHS Publ., 2012, pp. 240-245, Figs. 8.33a-d. Described in the text as: “…taken from Peking in the aftermath of the Western relief of the siege of the foreign legations in 1900… by Lt-Col. W. J. R. Rainsford and Major J. J. C. Watson of the Royal Army Medical Corps sometime in 1901 and presented by them to the Royal Army Medical Corps, in whose possession it remains.”I
(4.) Robersons, Ten Wonderful Clocks, Private Printing, circa 1924, item X 329
(5.) Ian White, English Clocks for the Eastern Market, AHS Publ., 2012, p. 248, Figs. 8.35 a - b. Also illustrated in Dorrans Saeks, Anne Getty: Interior Style. New York: Rizzoli International Publication, 2012.
(6.) Christie’s Hong Kong, Magnificent Clocks for the Chinese Imperial Court from the Nezu Museum, 27 May 2008, p.120-123.
Cox, James: A Descriptive Inventory of the Several Exquisite and Magnificent Pieces of Mechanism and Jewellery, comprised in the Schedule annexed to an Act of Parliament made in the Thirteenth Year of His Present Majesty, George the Third: for enabling Mr. James Cox, to dispose of his Museum by way of Lottery. London, 1773
Gugong bowuguan 故宫博物院 (eds.): Gugong zhongbiao 故宫钟表 (Clocks in the Palace Museum). Beijing: Zijincheng chubanshe, 2008
Guo Fuxiang郭福祥: Ming Qing huangdi yu zhongbiao 明清皇帝与钟表 (Clocks and the Emperors of the Ming and Qing Dynasties). Beijing: Gugong zhishi congshu, 2002
Harcourt-Smith, Simon: Catalogue of Clocks, Watches, Automata, and Other Miscellaneous Objects of European Workmanship from the XVIII to Early XIX Centuries in the Palace Museum and the Wu Ying Tien, Peiping. Peiping [Beijing]: The Palace Museum, 1933
Pagani, Catherine: Eastern Magnificence and European Ingenuity Clocks of Late Imperial China. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2001
Zhang Pu, Guo Fuxiang: L'art de l'horlogerie occidentale et la Chine. China Intercontinental Press, 2005
机蕊 非常好, 走動正常
机蕊 非常好, 走動正常