Longcase clock

Maker: Clockmaker: Hermann Achenbach (German, born 1730, active before 1759–92)

Maker: Clockmaker: Johann Schmidt (German, 1735–1795)

Maker: Case by David Roentgen (German, Herrnhaag 1743–1807 Wiesbaden, master 1780)

Maker: Marquetry panel by Reusch

Artist: Marquetry panel after a design by Thomas Chippendale (British, baptised Otley, West Yorkshire 1718–1779 London)

Date: ca. 1774–75

Culture: German, Neuwied am Rhein

Medium: Case: oak veneered with maple, burl woods, holly, and hornbeam (all partly stained), and other woods; mother-of-pearl; gilded bronze; and brass; Dial: partly gilded and partly silvered brass and enameled and painted copper; Movement: brass and steel

Dimensions: Overall: 122 1/2 × 27 × 16 in. (311.2 × 68.6 × 40.6 cm)

Classification: Horology

Credit Line: Gift of Mrs. Edgar Worch, in memory of her husband, 1975

Accession Number: 1975.101


The hood of the case consists of a curving superstructure, crowned by a pagoda-shaped roof surmounted by a cylindrical urn finial (replacement). The concave surfaces of the hood are fitted on front and sides with pierced-brass panels, and the edges are set with gilt-bronze strings of husks terminating in grotesque lions-masks. The case for the movement is arched at the top front and decorated with fretwork. Each side is fitted with an arched door of glass (added later) and openwork brass with fabric behind it. The clock has a white enameled dial painted with the hours in roman numerals, surrounded by a band with five-minute subdivisions of the hour in arabic numerals. The dial has chased openwork brass hour and minute hands, as well as a wavy steel auxiliary minute hand. Beneath the dial, openings in the plate display the date of the week and the month incised on rotating metal plaques. The lower part of the dial plate centers on a circular lunar subdial enameled in blue and gold with a moon and stars, with two brass pointers; the bottom edge of this dial is inscribed ACHENBACK & SCHMIDT À NEUWIED, for the clockmakers.[1] Surrounding this dial are ten smaller dials, called auxiliary dials, each with a single pointer, that are inscribed, reading clockwise: PHILADELPHIA. / MEXICO. / PEKING. / HISPAHAN. / CAS=BON=SPEI. [CAPE OF GOOD HOPE] / CAIRO. / ROM. / LISABON. / LONDEN. / ST. PETERSBURG. At the sides of the dial plate, suspended from rectangular quatrefoil motifs, are gilt-bronze leaf-and-berry swags interlaced with whimsical palm sprays. These mounts and the ones framing the dial could be inventions by Michel-Paul-Joseph Dewez, the goldsmith of Duke Charles Alexander of Lorraine, from Brussels, who was the brother of the duke’s primary architect.[2] The lower corners of the dial plate are each mounted with a globe relief.

Beneath the clock dial, the hood has a three-sided molding that fits into the cornice of the pendulum case. The cornice is decorated across the front with gilt-bronze profiles of Roman emperors in ribboned and garlanded medallions and with four diglyphs of brass, each surmounting gilt-bronze guttae. At the corners are garlands and swagged drapery, and at the sides are garlands and diglyph motifs. The sides of the pendulum case are each fitted with an openwork brass panel to release the sound of miniature flutes and dulcimer that played mechanically after the striking of the hour; this is now lost. The marquetry on the front depicts two lovers seated on a semicircular bench beneath an arbor. The young man, a shovel at his feet, presents the young woman with a rose from a basket on her lap. A third figure, walking towards the left, holds a watering can. Through the arbor stand two pedestals topped with male busts, and in the background is an open court flanked by clipped tree formations. Water gushes into a basin in the foreground, and to the right of the basin the name REUSCH appears in the architectural plinth. The front of the pendulum case is flanked by two engaged quarter columns with gilt-bronze bases, capitals, and leaf-and-berry spiral bands. The base of the pendulum case is decorated with floral marquetry and stands on four bracket feet.[3]

The case is related to several other longcase clocks by the Roentgen workshop that were influenced by designs in Thomas Chippendale’s Gentleman and Cabinet-Maker’s Director, for which the Metropolitan Museum has Chippendale’s drawings.[4] Reinier Baarsen (in "A Unique Relationship: Charles Alexander of Lorraine and David Roentgen" in this volume) suggests that the clock could be identical to the one that Duke Charles Alexander of Lorraine returned to Roentgen as partial payment for the acquisition of the secretary cabinet in 1776.[5] That object has so many mechanical devices, including a clock with musical implements that it would have duplicated the present clock.

In his daily notes, the duke did not mention a longcase clock with such a multitude of functions, chief among them the dials indicating the time in the then most important cities of the world. Philadelphia, for example, where the Declaration of Independence would be adopted by the Continental Congress in the American colonies on July 4, 1776, was known worldwide for its importance as a harbor and trading center. The clock’s mechanism and eccentric gilded mounts, however, fit perfectly with the duke’s fondness for complicated automatons and musical clocks. An example in his collection in the form of a jewel-embellished pyramid clock with dragons spitting precious pearls instead of fire testifies to his extravagant taste.[6] Elie Gervais recorded a payment for Jul 23, 1774, owed him by Roentgen for "dessiné un jour au grand Cadran de Kintzing: 36 Xer [Kreutzer]."[7] It is the only appearance of a clock-dial design in Gervais’s books and must have had very special importance, possibly relating to the Metropolitan Museum’s piece.[8]

The role of Johann Anton Reusch, who signed the marquetry, is still not clear. This project was too ambitious for Reusch, who did not have the financial means, the technical equipment, or relevant relationships to the other artisans involved, beginning with Januarius Zick, who certainly invented the figural scene, as the man with a water can is stylistically very close to a figure on the document cylinders of the Berlin secretary cabinet.[9] It is likely that Reusch, who had an independent workshop in Neuwied, repaired the case at some point and added his name to the main marquetry panel.[10] Roentgen would never otherwise have allowed this to happen. A payment by Count zu Wied to Reusch for a mahogany "worktable" with brass moldings was recorded on February 20, 1776.[11] Other signed works by this master are known, and although they follow Roentgen’s style closely, they are generally of a much lower quality in the execution of the details.[12]

[Wolfram Koeppe 2012]

[1] The clockmakers were Hermann Achenbach and Johann II Schmidt, both brothers-in-law of Christian I; see Dietrich Fabian. Kinzing und Roentgen, Uhren aus Neuwied: Uhren, Uhrenmöbel, Musikinstrumente, Spielwerke. Leben und Werke der Uhrmacherfamilien Kinzing und der Kunstschreiner Abraham und David Roentgen. Bad Neustadt an der Saale, 1984, pp. 60–61, 67–68.

[2] For Dewez, see Xavier Duquenne. Michel Dewez: Orfèvre et bronzier de la cour, 1742–1804. Brussels, 2002.

[3] Information supplied by Claire Vincent who is preparing a book on the Metropolitan Museum's collection of watches and clocks. I am very grateful for her support and encouragement.

[4] Josef Maria Greber. Abraham und David Roentgen: Möbel für Europa. Werdegange, Kunst und Technik einer deutschen Kabinett-Manufaktur. 2 vols. Starnberg, 1980, vol. 1, p. 137. Thomas Chippendale's relevant designs for clock cases are pl. CXXXVI in the first edition (1754) of The Gentleman and Cabinet-Maker's Director; in the third edition (1762), they are pl. CLXIII.

[5] On September 3, 1776, Roentgen was given permission to export from Brussels a grand pendulum clock that he planned to take "to a foreign country"; see Dietrich Fabian. Abraham und David Roentgen: Das noch aufgefundene Gesamtwerk ihrer Möbel- und Uhrenkunst in Verbindung mit der Uhrmacherfamilie Kinzing in Neuwied. Leben und Werk, Verzeichnis der Werke, Quellen. Bad Neustadt an der Saale, 1996, p. 343, doc. no. 2.154.

[6] The automaton was shown by Pelham Galleries, London, at The European Fine Art Faire (TEFAF) in Maastrict in 2011.

[7] Dietrich Fabian. Abraham und David Roentgen: Das noch aufgefundene Gesamtwerk ihrer Möbel- und Uhrenkunst in Verbindung mit der Uhrmacherfamilie Kinzing in Neuwied. Leben und Werk, Verzeichnis der Werke, Quellen. Bad Neustadt an der Saale, 1996, p. 341, doc. no. 2.132.

[8] See Gervais's account-book records for March 3 and April 8, 1774, for payments from Roentgen and descriptions of work completed on brass medallions that may relate to the longcase clock in the Metropolitan Museum (ibid., p. 340, doc. nos. 2.126, 2.127).

[9] For the similar figures, see Dietrich Fabian. Die Entwicklung der Einlegekunst in der Roentgenwerkstatt. Bad Neustadt an der Saale, 1981, p. 8, figs. 11, 12.

[10] Dietrich Fabian. Abraham und David Roentgen: Das noch aufgefundene Gesamtwerk ihrer Möbel- und Uhrenkunst in Verbindung mit der Uhrmacherfamilie Kinzing in Neuwied. Leben und Werk, Verzeichnis der Werke, Quellen. Bad Neustadt an der Saale, 1996, p. 291, for a biography of Reusch.

[11] Ibid., p. 343, doc. no. 2.150.

[12] See Sotheby's, London, sale cat., July 6, 2011, lot 82, for a pair of tables by Reusch.