Richard Upjohn, Exeter/London, Movement No. 1341, 285 x 135 x 35 mm, circa 1775
An exceptionally rare and important ormolu mounted, silver and paste-set double-sided hand mirror with inset watch and concealed miniature telescope and magnifier. Made for the Chinese Market by the same workshops as a pair of mirrors preserved in the Imperial collection in the Forbidden City. Case: ormolu, silver, paste stones. Dial: enamel. Movm.: full plate, chain/fussee, verge escapement, steel balance.
The Mirror: The shaped handle cast and finely chased with C scrolls enclosing panels of floral decoration on a matted ground, terminating in a domed finial. The front with a flat circular mirror within a parcel-firegilt silver frame set with facetted artificial white gem stones, intersected by single and crossed ribbons in similar red stones simulating ruby. The reverse with a concave magnifying mirror with a moulded gilt bezel.
The Watch: Set within a circular mount formed as part of the handle, with hinged silver bezel set similarly set with facetted artificial white gem stones, and glazed to protect the dial and hands. The back with a hinged and glazed gilt-metal bezel over the movement.
The Dial: White enamel, Roman hour numerals, winding aperture at 6 oclock. Pierced gold hands.
The Movement: Signed Richd. Upjohn, Exeter. Gilt full-plate, fusee with chain, pierced and engraved balance cock, verge escapement with plain balance, spring and regulator (the mainspring dated 1774).
The Telescope: contained within the handle of the mirror and accessed by unscrewing the domed terminal finial. Comprising an outer tube with an inner draw tube for basic focusing. When removed this acts as a simple magnifier. The outer tube is threaded and screws into the finial to support the telescope when it is stored in the handle.
Biography Richard and James Upjohn, Exeter and London: Richard Upjohn was born in Topsham in 1728 and died in Exeter in 1778. His elder brother, James, was born in Shaftesbury in 1722 and died in Hornsey, London in 1794. They were both apprenticed to their father Edward Upjohn (1686 -1764). Fortunately, James wrote a comprehensive journal of his Life and Travels, for which the manuscript survives in the Clockmakers Company Library and has now been transcribed and quite recently published.
James Upjohn moved to London in 1743, following a disagreement with his father, and went on to establish a very successful business. He was for a period supplying some of the most important pieces sent to China by James Cox (1.), both clocks and watches, and, although not signed by Upjohn, detailed descriptions provided in his manuscript confirm that he was the maker, and indeed, he records their shipment to China: "These Cars and Temples were sent to Canton in China in the year 1771, and cost £115 freight and £105 insurance…" (2.). Eventually they were sold to the Imperial Court, and at least two are still preserved in the Collection of the Forbidden City; most notably the Elephant Carriage, described by Upjohn as a "Car" and, at 136 cams., noted in a Museum Catalogue as "the longest Western Clock kept in the Forbidden City." (5.)
Although the movement of the watch is signed Richard Upjohn, there seems to be little doubt that it was supplied to James in London for fitting into the Mirror. Richard spent his working life in Exeter, but was certainly in touch with his more successful brother in London. James records in his Journal: "from the time he began business……he never was less than from £300 to £500 in my debt…" (3.) In addition, according to the catalogue note accompanying the sale of a gold and enamel watch by James Upjohn at Sotheby’s, London, (4.): "James Upjohn is the best known member of an Exeter family of makers. He is thought to have had his movements made, or at least finished, in Exeter."
Note: Hand mirrors incorporating a watch, made for the Chinese Market, are very rare with no more than a handful being recorded. One example, manufactured in Guangdong, is preserved in the Patek Philippe Museum (6.). A pair are preserved in the Imperial collection in the Forbidden City; these have single sided mirror panels within an oval frame and are more elaborately decorated on the reverse. They are first described by Harcourt - Smith in his "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", published in 1933 (7.). He describes them as follows: "Gold and bronze-gilt hand-mirror, probably French, c.1770. The back of the mirror is enriched with baroque scrolls and garlands, enclosing a device of musical instruments, etc. in coloured paste. On top of the mirror is a small watch encircled with paste flowers, the reverse side being enamelled in blue. Pair." (Clearly he did not discover the telescopes). Harcourt-Smith notes that they are "probably French", and the same origin is given in recent catalogues of the collection (5.& 8.). However, a careful examination of the colour illustrations shows that the timepieces are actually complete watches and would appear to be fitted into the frames and not an integral part of the mirrors as is the case with the present lot. In the catalogue by Liao Pin (5.), it is noted that the word "Paris" is marked on the back of the watch case, which would naturally support a conclusion that the entire objects were French. At the period in question, the 1770’s, there were undoubtedly French pieces being exported to China, but evidence indicates that the vast majority came from England. It is the case that pairs of watches were coming from various sources. Whatever the origin of the mirror frames, a comparison of the Museum pieces with the lot now offered for sale indicates emphatically that they all emanate from the same workshop. This is most notable in the form of the handles, which, although not identical in decoration, employ many of the same elements. Perhaps the most telling detail is the incorporation of a telescope into the handles of all three, accessed through a threaded terminal finial.
Literature : 1. Guildhall Library, Ms. 20,384, and Leopold, J. & Smith, R., The Life and Travels of James Upjohn, AHS, WCC, 2016, p.127. 2. op cit. page 155. 3. op cit. page 147. 4. Sotheby’s, The Celebration of the English Watch - Part I David Ramsay and the First 5. Liao Pin, Clocks and Watches of the Qing Dynasty From the Collection in the Forbidden City, Foreign Languages Press, Beijing, 2002, Cat. No. 90. 6. Friess Peter, The Emergence of the Portable Watch, Patek Philippe, Geneva, 2015, Vol.III, p. 376, Inv. S-787. 7. Harcourt-Smith, S., 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, 1933, Cat. No. 729, Pl. IX. 8. Palace Museum, Timepieces in the Imperial Palace, Forbidden City Publishing House, Beijing, 2008, p. 242, cat. No.165.
Estimate 100,000 - 150,000 €
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