Nécessaire incorporating an automaton watch, ca. 1770–72
Signed by James Cox (English, ca. 1723–1800)
Case: moss agate, mounted in gold and set with diamonds, rubies, and emeralds; silver; and mirror glass; dial: white enamel, with frame pavé set with paste jewels; 3 1/4 x 3 9/16 x 2 1/2 in. (8.3 x 9 x 6.4 cm)
Gift of Mrs. Florence Shlubach, 1957 (57.128a–o)
Set almost entirely with red, green, and white precious stones, the favored colors of Mughal Indian jewelers, this small casket was probably intended for an Indian patron. A similar casket is to be found, however, in the collection of the Imperial Palace Museum in Beijing. The Metropolitan Museum's example is fitted with six glass boxes, with bejeweled gold covers and a gold tray fitted with steel and gold toilet articles and a tiny gold ear spoon. A second component of the casket inserted between the part containing the toilet articles and the hinged lid displays the dial of the watch, which has a revolving frame and whirling rosettes, or stars, set with paste jewels. The automation, apparently a stock mechanism, was incorporated in caskets like this one or in watches like the one by Cox in the Metropolitan Museum's collection (1977.436.4), suggesting that its existence was the result of the cooperation of a watchmaker, a jeweler, and a mechanician.