A QUEEN ANNE EBONY VENEERED QUARTER-STRIKING TABLE CLOCK BY CLAUDE DUCHESNE, LONDON
An extremely fine and rare early 18th century ebony veneered table clock of small scale, the case with a cushion moulded dome top above pierced gilt brass engraved gallery frets surmounted by a baluster handle, the glazed sides with further fret panels above, the 5 ½ inch square brass dial with silvered chapter ring signed ‘Claudius Du Chesne Londini’, with four subsidiary dials to the corners, the Roman hour with sword-hilt half-hour markers, Arabic minutes and blued steel hands, the matted centre with three winding holes with brass ferrules and mock pendulum aperture, the dial plate spandrels with richly foliate engraving with emerging hawks’ heads, the date aperture below flanked by subsidiary rings for the day of the week with corresponding deity, the opposing ring displaying the months with their relevant number of days, the upper dials for strike/silent and pendulum regulation, the diminutive movement with triple gut fusees and spring barrels, central going train with verge escapement with pendulum suspended from a regulation bar raised and lowered by a foliate engraved snail to the left of the backplate, the quarters chiming on three bells with hour strike on a further bell, the backplate with delicate scrolling foliate strapwork centred by an oval vignette engraved with figures of Apollo pursuing Daphne within a wheat ear border and further grotesque masks below supported by two winged caryatids.
English, circa 1705
Height: 13 in; 35 cm
Width: 8 in; 22 cm
Depth: 5 in; 14 cm
This most unusual and superb quality table clock is a fascinating hybrid of French and English skills. The style and form of the case is certainly influenced by English cabinetmakers, but the sound fret gallery above the dial between the upper mouldings and the dome is much more characteristic of Huguenot clockmaking, as is the unusual use of fruitwood in the construction of the carcass of the ebony veneered case.
One of the more unusual features is the outstanding and delicate engraving on the dial and the backplate. The latter is engraved with a playful mythological scene depicting the nymph Daphne, daughter of the River God Peneus and the sun god Apollo. Daphne was the first and most celebrated of Apollo’s loves and was popular with artists throughout the centuries, symbolising the triumph of Chastity over Love.
Little is known of Claude Duchesne, but he was almost certainly part of the wave of Huguenot emigrants from France after the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes by Louis XIV in 1685. The first record of him was when he was created a Free Brother in the Clockmakers’ Company in 1693. He lived in Long Acre in the Parish of St. Anne’s in Soho and is recorded as working on Dean Street, which had long been an enclave of Huguenot craftsmen. He is believed to have lived until the 1730s.
A similar but much larger ebonised clock with the same arrangement of dials and engraving by Duchesne, formerly from the Ilbert collection, can be found in the collection of the British Museum (Reg.CAI-2192).
cf. David Thompson, ‘The British Museum Clocks’, London, 2004, pp. 98-9.