Miniature secretary incorporating a watch

Entrepreneur: James Cox (British, ca. 1723–1800)

Date: ca. 1766–72

Culture: British, London

Medium: Case: agate, with gold mounts, gilded brass, pearls, and paste jewels set in silver; Dial: white enamel; Movement: wheel balance and cock set with paste jewels

Dimensions: Overall (confirmed): 12 1/8 × 5 3/4 × 4 1/8 in. (30.8 × 14.6 × 10.5 cm)

Classification: Metalwork-Gold and Platinum

Credit Line: Gift of Admiral F, R. Harris, in memory of his wife, Dena Sperry Harris, 1946

Accession Number: 46.184a–c


Bejeweled butterflies and flowers that tremble in the slightest breath of air adorn this whimsical object, which plays tunes on a hidden music box and incidentally tells the time. The spring mechanism that powers the music is wound by inserting a key into a hole hidden behind one of rosettes near the bulls that support the cabinet. Based on actual rococo European cabinet designs, but with some improbable additions, the miniature is known to have been in the collection of Princess Z. M. Youssoupof in Saint Petersburg in 1904. Although it has been said to have been taken from China after the Boxer Rebellion in 1899, it may, in fact, have been imported into Russia long before.