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Lot No. 511 (89th Auction)
Stephen Rimbault, London / Johann Zoffany, Height 350 mm, circa 1765

An important ormolu musical table clock with hour strike. The dial is attributed to the painter to the English court Johann Zoffany (1733-1810).
Case: ormolu, Boule case on four scroll feet with flower ornaments on a green marble plinth with concave corners and gilt dogs to each corner, mounted on a moulded red marble base. The sides of the drum-shaped case are open-worked with silvered floral mesh decoration on a background of red silk. The top part is decorated with three-dimensional urns, flowers and squirrels, volute handles to the sides, crowned by a bouquet of fruit and flowers. Dial: enamel, radial Roman hours, the centre with a very fine opaque polychrome miniature painting of a scene taken from the Old Testament: "Abigail before King David". Blued Louis XV hands. Movm.: round brass full plate movement engraved with foliate scrolls, 3 x chain/fusée for movement, musical and striking mechanism, playing one of two tunes at the hour with 12 hammers and 8 bells and pinned barrel, additional hammer and bell for striking the hours, verge escapement, short pendulum.

Stephen Rimbault
Stephen Rimbault (working 1744-88) was a famous clock maker of Huguenot descent, particularly noted for his 'twelve-tuned Dutchmen', clocks which played twelve tunes, with moving figures in front of decorated backgrounds. He did business in Great Andrew's Street, St Giles.

Johann Zoffany
The miniature painting on the dial is attributed to the German painter Johann Zoffany; the style takes its inspiration from the elegant gallantries by Nicolas Lancret (1690-1743) or Jean-Antoine Watteau (1684-1721).

Johann Zoffany (1733-1810) was one of the most renowned personalities in British art during the 18th century; he was most famous for his portraits of the royal family.
Zoffany was born in Frankfurt/Main, the son of a Bohemian architect to the court of the Princes of Thurn and Taxis in Frankfurt. Zoffany was a pupil of Francesco Solimena and later studied in Italy. He went to London at the age of 27, where he eventually became a protégé of famous actor David Garrick and painted mainly theatre motifs. Garrick introduced Zoffany to King George III, who commissioned him to create portraits of the royal family. The king was very fond of Zoffany’s style and nominated him for the Royal Academy of Art, which opened in the same year. When the king cancelled a commission in the 1770s because Zoffany had integrated non-nobles in the painting, he moved to Italy and lived in Florence for most of the time. He continued his success as a painter after another move in 1783 to Calcutta. Zoffany came back to London a rich man in 1789, but he never replicated his earlier success in England.

We know that Zoffany painted clock dials in the workshop of Stephen Rimbault for about six months after his arrival in England; he took his inspiration from the gallantries of Lancret or Watteau (see Penelope Treadwell "Johan Zoffany", Editor Paul Holberton, London, 2009).

The Tate Gallery London on Johann Zoffany:
After Zoffany's arrival in England around 1760 he had difficulty finding work as a portrait painter, hindered in part by his poor English. He was living, almost destitute, in the garret of a house in Short's Gardens, Drury Lane, belonging to an Italian musical box maker named Bellodi, who worked for Rimbault pricking the barrels for the musical clocks. Bellodi introduced Zoffany to the clock maker Stephen Rimbault, who employed Zoffany to paint clock faces. According to family tradition, Rimbault brought Zoffany to the attention of Benjamin Wilson, a minor portraitist who, admiring Zoffany's figurative work on the clock faces, offered him the post of a painter at a salary of forty pounds a year.
Source: http://www.tate.org.uk/servlet/ViewWork?cgroupid=999999961&workid=16​524&searchid=9628&tabview=text, as of 03/29/2012
Estimate  22,000 - 28,000 €
This is a lot of a former auction!

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