Exceptional Amboyna Burl Veneer and Gilt Bronze Musical Rotunda Orrery Clock
Paris, Restauration period, circa 1820
The round white enamel dial indicates the Roman numeral hours, the Arabic numeral fifteen-minute intervals, and the seconds, by means of three hands. The movement is housed in a drum case; the bimetallic pendulum features a bob that is adorned by a male mask. The neoclassical case is in the form of a classical rotunda temple in gilt bronze and amboyna burl veneer, which is decorated with chasing and knurling. Four columns, standing on square bases decorated with fleur de lys friezes, are surmounted by finely fluted capitals with beadwork decoration. They are supported on a round base that is set on a plinth, which is adorned with a frieze of stylized palmettes, and rests upon a quadrangular base housing a twenty-five tooth comb and cylinder musical movement. A gilt bronze plaque signed “Raingo à Paris” bears the commands for adjusting the mechanism, as well as for winding the musical movement. Surmounting the columns is a circular platform whose entablature is decorated with flowers and mille-raie friezes; it is surmounted by the orrery. The latter, which shows the 365-day period of the Earth’s revolution around the sun, has a mechanism that may be manually disengaged for didactic purposes or for changing the date, by means of a lateral crank with a turned ivory handle. It indicates a zodiacal calendar with annual date, indicating the twelve months of the year, accompanied by their low relief applied zodiac signs, along a wide silvered metal band set in the circular platform. The gilt bronze Sun is placed in the center of the orrery; it is flanked by a silvered metal dial that indicates the age of the moon from 1 to 29 ½, as well as the moon phases. It supports the ivory and black lacquered Moon that revolves around the Earth, which features a map and is tilted. It is surmounted by a metal dial with double Roman numerals from I to XII, indicating the time in various parts of the world. The clock has a glass dome.
This exceptional orrery clock may be considered the ultimate illustration of the technical and esthetic developments in the field of clocks with complications, the first models of which were made during the early part of the 18th century by the Englishman John Rowley for the Count of Orrery (see the exhibition catalogue Sphères, L’art des mécaniques célestes, Paris, 2002, p. 238-239). In the early 19th century, several famous French clockmakers produced examples of these exceptional pieces, including Antide Janvier, who created an example that is now in the Musée du Temps in Besançon (illustrated in M. Hayard, Antide Janvier 1751-1835, Horloger des étoiles, 1995, p. 209). A second piece is pictured in G. and A. Wannenes, Les plus belles pendules françaises, De Louis XIV à l’Empire, Editions Polistampa, Florence, 2013, p. 378-379. It should be noted that Leroy et Fils took part in the creation of a clock that is illustrated in P. Heuer and K. Maurice, European Pendulum Clocks, Decorative Instruments of Measuring Time, Munich, 1988, p. 70, fig. 122.
Nevertheless, the most elaborate models, which were the most sought-after by European collectors due to their elegant cases and remarkable mechanisms, were those made by the clockmaker Zacharie-Joseph Raingo during the early decades of the 19th century. In 1810, Raingo registered a patent with an attached drawing for a gilt bronze example that appears to be the one commissioned by Paul Arconati, Baron of Gaesbeek. Gaesbeek intended to give it to the Sultan of Turkey, but this never happenethatd and the clock remained in the Gaesbeek family until it was acquired by the Musée du Cinquantenaire in Brussels (illustrated in A-M. Berryer and L. Dresse de Lébioles, La mesure du temps à travers les âges aux Musées royaux d’Art et d’Histoire, Bruxelles, 1974, p. 92). There are only a few clocks made by Raingo that are comparable to the present piece. Most feature rotundas with columns with mahogany or burl veneer. One is illustrated in P. Kjellberg, Encyclopédie de la pendule française du Moyen Age au XXe siècle, Paris, 1997, p. 376. A second clock, made of chased gilt bronze, is in the Royal Spanish Collection (illustrated in J. Ramon Colon de Carvajal, Catalogo de Relojes del Patrimonio nacional, Madrid, 1987, p. 144, catalogue n° 122). Three models are shown in Tardy, La pendule française, 2ème partie: Du Louis XVI à nos jours, Paris, 1975, p. 418. One further clock, nearly identical to the present one, is in the Royal British Collection (see C. Jagger, Royal Clocks, The British Monarchy & its Timekeepers 1300-1900, London, 1983, p. 168, fig. 229).
A similar clock was described at length when it appeared in the sale of the collection of Monsieur Maneffe of Brussels: “Scientific clock. Invented and made by M. Raingo, a clockmaker from Mons. Approved by the members of the Institut and the Conservatoire, and favorably mentioned by the French Ministry of the Interior. To this clock is adjoined a sphere which, by means of its rotation, demonstrates cosmological and geographical phenomena. It takes a new and pleasant form, measuring 13 inches in diameter and 25 in height. The effects are obtained by simple means and by an that is as perfect in its genre as could be wished. It is useful for demonstrating the truth of the system of Copernicus, and the planets’ revolutions, which leave no doubt regarding natural phenomena, which are shown with the greatest precision. 1. It illustrates the annual and daily movement of the Earth around the Sun, with the perfect inclination of the ecliptic. 2. As it passes along the ecliptic, the Earth traces an ellipse, moving closer or further away from the sun, depending on the season; it indicates, as exactly as possible, the constant natural movements. 3. The various movements of the Earth illustrate the passage of time, due to the same causes as in Nature, and may be used for various observations concerning the globe. 4. The circles move around the globe in all directions, demonstrating the lengthening and shortening of the days according to the seasons, for all countries in the world. 5. Movable pointers designate the hours of sunrise and sunset each day, for all countries; they show the sun’s elevation, its altitude, and its movements. These indicators also show the four seasons during the equinoxes and solstices. 6. A mobile dial above the Earth indicates, as desired, the time in any country, as well as the nocturnal and diurnal hours. 7. The daily and annual movements of the Moon around the Earth, as well as the moon phases. 8. The ecliptic path of the moon showing its apogee, perigee, and the variety of lunar days, through gradual motion. 9. An indicator showing the times of moon rise and moon set in all the countries of the world. 10. The progression of lunar days is indicated by the rotation of the moon. 11. As it moves along the ecliptic, the sphere shows the days of each month, with their names, and the degrees and signs of the zodiac. 12. The progression of ordinary and leap years indicates the moment when the mechanism must be rewound, which occurs only every four years. The sphere may be disengaged at will from the clock for demonstration purposes, by means of a special mechanism; it may be accelerated as desired. The clock is completed by a mechanical musical movement that plays flute music on the hour and at will. This invention required seven years of work on the part of its creator, in order to obtain the absolute perfection he desired”.
Zacharie Raingo (active circa 1805 - 1830)
Little is known of the life of Zacharie Raingo, who was active from circa 1805 to circa 1830. Born in Mons, Belgium, he worked in Tournai in 1806, in Gand around 1810. Soon afterward he went to Paris, where he was named Horloger-Mécanicien de SAS le duc de Chartres, and in 1824 Horloger-Mécanicien de la Couronne. In just a few years, Raingo became the most famous clockmaker of the Empire and Restoration periods. One of his clocks was briefly included in the 1834 sale of the collection of the banker Jacques Laffitte; it was described as follows: “A clock with columns, in mahogany, adorned with gilt copper, mechanical movement by M. Raingo.”