A chippendale carved and figured mahogany Philadelphia tall case clock. The works made by Thomas Sandersen of Dublin, Ireland. AAA-39

This is one of the finest Chippendale tall clock case we have seen. The case is the work of some Ulster County craftsman who may have eventually sailed to Philadelphia. Certainly the spirit who helped create this case was also guiding the hands of many Philadelphia craftsmen during the two decades prior to the American War of Independence. It is very difficult to find Scottish and Irish cased clocks that the form shares a close proximity to the Philadelphia aesthetic. In this Irish cased example, one may see many ideas that are repeated in the Philadelphia school of cabinetry. The formation of the pediment is a good example of this.

The mechanism was made earlier than this case. We suspect it predates the case by perhaps 20 or more years. It is the work of Thomas Sandersen, a very skilled artisan who worked in Dublin between 1730 and 1752. The clock face was originally a sure dial format. This was the form that the Irish clockmakers of the period seemed to favor. The arch, containing a moon’s age calendar was most like added about 1762 when this case was made to accommodate the new dial format. It is not known whether the original case was lost, destroyed of just fell out of favor in the eyes of its owner. The present case is a tour-de-force of would have been the new Philadelphia form. After close inspection, it is certain that this case was made for this dial. Dials had become quite standardized by 1765. A typical 13 inch square arched dial could fit most cases of the period. The arch portion of this dial is smaller than the standard example, making it nearly impossible to find a case that would accommodate it. As a result, it is logical to assume that this case was made specifically for this dial. The result of this 18th century marriage is a smashing success.

This dense mahogany case clock has excellent proportions. The wood selections exhibit a vibrant grain pattern and are positioned in the case design for maximum effect. The case is now a deep brown color and retains an older finish. This fine example stands on four boldly formed ogee bracket feet. Each foot features a return or spur that is well formed. The feet are applied to a base molding and elevate the case up off the floor. The base section is somewhat compressed which was typical for the earlier case forms. Two book-matched panels are positioned in a vertical orientation and present the wood grain to the viewer. The front corners are canted and terminate at the bottom in a lamb’s tongue molding. Applied bell flower carings visually hang from the lower waist molding on the canted surfaces. This lower waist molding is complex. It is formed to accommodate the five sided base structure. A series of ogee moldings and steps transition the base to the waist section.

The waist section is long. A large waist door is centered in this location. The wood selected for the construction of the door is also nicely figured. The door is shaped at the top and trimmed with an molded edge. This door provides access to the two brass covered drive weights and the brass faced pendulum bob. The sides of the waist are fitted with fluted quarter columns that terminate in turned wooden capitals.

The bonnet hood is designed with an elaborate swans neck or scroll top form. The swan’s neck are more erect than most. The scrolls terminating in nicely carved rosettes. These are turned in a downward facing orientation. A pattern of dentil molding trim in the form of corbels is applied to the undersides of the upper moldings. The arches center a massive rococo carved cattouche that flares up and outward. This crest is a reoccurring theme in Philadelphia made case furniture. A similar decoration can be found on an Edward Duffield made clock that is illustrated in The Long Case Clock written by John Robey. Two tall flambeau finials are fitted on blocked ends on the outer sides of the hood. The tympanum is finished with applied carved ornament. This openwork design features a central floral theme. Two fully turned and fluted bonnet columns flank the arched glazed door. These are free standing. Additional split columns of the same design are applied to the back sides of the hood. There is an incredible amount of work involved in constructing this bonnet.The arched bonnet door opens to a composite brass dial of complex design.

Tis composite brass dial measures approximately 13 inches square. The addition of the arch adds and additional 4.75 inches in height. The dial is constructed with a brass base sheet. The cast brass spandrels and the time rings are applied to it. The four spandrels are the twin cherubs and the crown form. They decorate the corners of the dial. Working inward, an engraved band frames the time ring. There are actually two rings tat are engraved into the the dial sheet. The second is located on the inside edge of the time ring. These are skillfully engraved. This design element is not commonly seen. The applied brass time ring is engraved. On the perimeter are the Arabic style five minute markers and half-quarter markers. A minute ring is used to divide the five minute locations from the hour presentation. This ring is closed and each of the five minute locations is marked with a small triangle. Large Roman Style hour markers are use for the hours. In between each hour are elaborate half-hour markers. These share the form of a fleur-dis-les. An additional closed minute ring is positioned on the interior edge of the chapter ring. This dial is signed in the lower quadrant of the time ring by the Maker. The engraved signature reads, “Thomas Sandersen / DUBLIN.” The engravings are filled with black wax and a silver wash has been applied to the chapter ring for contrast. The center of the dial is matted. Here one will find a ring turned circular calendar aperture and winding holes. A subsidiary seconds register displays the seconds. The seconds ring is applied and also treated with a silver wash. Steel hands of a traditional form are used to display the time. A lunar calendar or moon phase mechanism has been located in the arch of this dial. This mechanical almanac and would have been a valuable addition for an owner. Farmers would use this calendar display in order to anticipate the nights with the most available moonlight. This would aide them in scheduling their planting, tilling of the fields and harvesting. Sailors and merchants would find this useful some that they could anticipate the tides. A high tide would allow their ships to sail from many of the shallower coastal ports. Many religious groups had an almost superstitious litany of rituals best performed in accordance with lunar events. One other popular use of this calendar would be the scheduling of travel. Many people preferred to travel by moonlight. A full moon often provides ample light to do so. The lunar month represents an inconvenient interval of 29 days, 12 hours, 44 minutes and 2.8 seconds. A clocks lunar calendar cycle is set at 29.5 days. This would be considered a full cycle and as a result would require a 9 hour setback at the end of a single year. The moon presentation is painted. A painted night sky surrounds both moons. At the top are two engraved rings. The inner ring displays the lunar calendar day, 1 to 29.5. The engraved ring above it is a display for the hour of the next high tide. A steel pointer attached to the top of the arch indicates the position.

This clock stands approximately 95 inches tall 23 inches wide 11.75 inches deep cornice molding.


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