Girandole wall clock

1816–21


Object Place: Concord, Massachusetts, United States

Dimensions

Overall: 116.8 x 34.9 x 14.6 cm (46 x 13 3/4 x 5 3/4 in.)

Accession Number

1991.241

Medium or Technique

Carved, painted, and gilded wood; brass; reverse glass painting

On View

C. Kevin and G. Barrie Landry Gallery (Gallery 126)

Collections

Americas

Classifications

Clocks

In 1802, Simon Willard of Roxbury, Massachusetts, was granted a patent for the production of “Willard’s Patent Time Pieces,” an immensely popular wall clock. Lemuel Curtis, like many clockmakers in New England, had links, both familial and professional, with the seminal Willard shop. After completing his apprenticeship, probably with Simon Willard, Curtis opened his own shop in Concord, Massachusetts, in 1811, where he produced timepieces until he departed for Vermont in 1821. Memoirist Edward Jarvis, in his early reminiscences of Concord, recalled that Curtis’s shop was “thirty feet long and ten or twelve feet wide. In a room on the left side he repaired and had a small jewelry store. The rest he used by himself, his men and apprentices as a manufactory of his timepieces.”

The Museum’s girandole wall clock (named for its use of convex glass in the base section) is a type patented by Curtis in 1816 in his attempt to make a more technologically advanced and aesthetically pleasing model that would surpass the influential Willard version. This example is exceptional for its beautifully rendered image of Marriage depicted in reverse painting on glass (eglomisé), an extraordinarily difficult technique. Curtis asserted in a Boston Intelligencer advertisement from April 12, 1817, “Upon the exteriour [of his clocks] the exertions of genius and taste have not been spared, or any expence,” adding that they received “the approbation of the first artists in the United States” and that they were “the best moddeled, and proportioned, and surpassing, in elegance of appearance, any timepiece ever invented.” Other subjects depicted on his clocks include Commerce and victorious naval engagements from the War of 1812, fitting themes for “Meeting Houses, Banks, Parlours and other rooms.”

This text was adapted from Ward, et al., MFA Highlights: American Decorative Arts & Sculpture (Boston, 2006) available at www.mfashop.com/mfa-publications.html.

Inscription

Oval painted scene labeled: "MARRIAGE."

Markings

Dail painted: "L. Curtis / Patent"
Glass panel, in script on banner: : "L. Curtis Patent"

Provenance

According to a family tradition, "Count Rumford's first cousin gave this clock to Mrs. Cabot's grandfather in payment of a legal fee." By descent through the Cabot family to Mrs. Charles J. White; by descent to her daughter, Mrs. Charles C. Cabot, Dover, Mass., in 1965; 1977, lent by Mrs. Charles C. Cabot; Gift of Mrs. Charles C. Cabot, Westwood, Mass., 1991 (Accession Date March 27, 1991)

Credit Line

Gift of Mrs. Charles C. Cabot in memory of Dr. and Mrs. Charles J. White