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A mantle clock is a luxurious piece of interior, which style and finishing are determined by the placement and spatial environment. The history of their creation is rooted in the distant XVI century. The earliest examples are dated by 1549 (Master X. Shtaynmaysel) and 1568 (the master Caspar Behain).
In the XVI century, the main customers of mantel clocks were kings and nobles. Wider distribution mantle clocks received at the end of XVII century and at the beginning of the XVIII century. Then the fire was one of the most important decorative elements of the interior city of palaces of the nobility. Marble portals crowned at top by intricately decorated mantel, were central in the design of the French houses. Even special rules of mantelpiece decoration were introduced during the reign of Sun King Louis XIV. Thus, precious decorative elements appeared there: chandeliers with candles, porcelain figurines, patterned boxes and clocks. A French monarch facilitated the development of watch making: watchmakers of court were considered as a privileged caste that was under the patronage of the king. Besides watchmakers to the court were invited bronze and stone masons who created luxury mantle clocks made of gilded bronze and marble. The best masters continued to serve under the patronage of Louis XVI, who also invited jewelers, casters, engravers, gilders, engravers, sculptors, carpenters, painters on the enamel and other. Foundry hands embodied in bronze the wildest fantasies of sculptors, engravers imparted completeness to finished casting, gilders covered products with a thin layer of a noble metal, and engravers by special incisors decorated metal surface with various ornaments.
Bronze sculptures usually were made in the technique of castling with wax model. Then, the finished product was gold-plated: at initial stage was used mercury (fire) gilding, from the 40s of the XIX century was widely used galvanic gilding. Adhered by the art rules of chiaroscuro, master of gilding created cases with a matte muted shine.
In English mantel clocks the primary focus was to demonstrate the functionality of the mechanism. Clock cases mostly were made of wood, and bronze was used for finishing. English mantel clocks were differed from the French not only to the architecture, but also by the method of applying time division. A characteristic feature of French watches was a special method of accentuation of numbers on the dial. To more clearly emphasize the plate with divisions, each index was placed in a separate metal or porcelain dial, and then it was covered with black enamel (later masters started using a blue enamel). Form of mantel clocks and finishing depend on the change of eras and styles in art history. Thus, at different times clocks were made in different styles - Baroque, Rococo, «aux sauvages» (watch with figures of blacks, Indians, etc.), the Empire. Depending on the prevailing style, surface of cases were decorated with different ornaments.
French mantel clocks of the first half of the XVIII century were made in the Baroque style, which was characterized by an abundance of luxury and decorative items. Typically, clocks were made of the same materials as the fireplaces themselves (mostly marble and bronze). In the second half of the XVIII century in vogue were watch-rotators, which had mobile ringed dials and one fixed hour hand (often made in the form of arrows of Cupid or snake head with hanging out tongue.)
Gradually interior accessories have come into vogue (furniture, lamps, chandeliers, clocks), performed in a solemn and strict Empire style, which is characterized by antique decor items and heroic allegories of the Roman Empire. Different watches with combined cases appeared - gilt and patinated bronze was used in combination with red marble, jasper, etc. There were new models in cases, adorned with large-scale sculptures. As decorative elements were used figures reproducing biblical scenes, scenes from classical mythology, etc.
In the 30’s of the XIX century the complex and ornate Empire-style forms were replaced with watch-skeletons showing the skill and ingenuity of watchmakers. In the middle of XIX century decorative art gave a way to a new style decision. In the arts and crafts of a period of eclecticism: in one case form were used elements of previous styles - Baroque, Rococo, Empire, etc. For the decoration of the case were used porcelain and glass inserts, the combination of which sometimes seemed not artistic. In the 70's in fashion were mantle clocks made of black marble (sometimes also wooden models were lacquered "under the black marble"). At the end of XIX century rotunda watches and watches portals were very fashionable (especially ancient Greek motifs).
At that time the most perfect collection of mantel clocks Cartier Mystery Clock appeared. The first model was developed in collaboration by Louis-Francois Cartier and Maurice Coue. Together, they have implemented a magical idea of Mystery Clock, based on the magic of optical illusion. The highlight of the "mystical" clocks was the "lightness" of the mechanism: the optical effect creates the illusion of "floating" dial in the air.
In 1925, the French magazine «La Gazette du Bon Ton» called the perfect creation of Cartier «a miracle of watch making." In the XIX-XX centuries mantel clocks were very popular not only in France and England, but also in many other countries, including Russia (first mantel clocks appeared in Russia in XVII-XVIII centuries, during the reign of Peter I).
Meter mantel clock made of silver and onyx is set on a stone pedestal. In decorating the case is used precious stones, silver figure of cupids, two-headed eagle, the symbol of the Romanovs - griffin. For several years, the emperor clock has been set in the Anichkov Palace.
In modern analogs, except marble crumbs, is used as an artificial wood (often used a combination of stone sculptures, painted a stained wood, with wooden cases). In the manufacture of modern mantelpiece clocks has found its widely use a technique of stained glass. A stained-glass window is made by classical Venetian technology of dyed in the mass of glass and metal. The idea to use in the design of the clock case a mosaic of stained glass windows makes it possible to bring in home décor a piece of antique architectural decoration.
Collectible value of mantel clocks
Today, as before, mantel clocks are an important element in interior design. They convey a piece of antiquity, which the most need in the world of high technology. Particularly impressive antique mantel clocks look in country and retro style. Modern manufacturers of interior clocks often turn to old patterns. In their collections you can find some incredible examples that mimic the shape and finish of clock represented in the Louvre, the castles of the Loire, Versailles, Venetian palazzo, etc. In making of the latter, as a rule, are used the same materials as in the antique models. Such pieces are worth big money.
From the point of view of collecting modern analogs are no values. Collectible are considered antique mantel clocks, whose creation dates back to XVIII, XIX and early XX centuries. Today they can be seen only in museums, antique shops and private collections. Collectible mantle clocks are the forgotten and out-of frequent use decorative - applied art items. Today, these rare masterpieces of horology are very popular in international auctions and exhibitions. Particular interest in selling of mantel clocks is shown by the auction houses Sotheby's and Christie's.
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