John Reilly of Dublin, Ireland. An Irish Chippendale tall clock.

John Reilly is listed in Brian Loomes, Clockmakers and Watchmakers of the World. He is listed as working in Ireland’s capital city from 1753-1786.

This tall elegant and well proportioned case is constructed in San Domingo mahogany. This would have been one of the first forms to use this newly imported wood to the island from regions of the Spanish Islands and the latter Cuba. Mahogany and other goods from his Majesty’s plantations were illegal to import on to that island until sometime around 1730. This case form took well advantage of that new wood which was a departure from the marquetry style cases that were previously in fashion.

This case form is traditional found in Dublin. The bonnet is built on a larger scale than the base and waist sections. A larger bonnet is necessary to accommodate the lager dial size of 13 inches. This case stands on applied bracket feet. The base features an applied rectangular shaped panel that is trimmed with a molded edge. This panel was chosen for its excellent grain pattern. The long narrow waist section is fitted with a nicely shaped door. This door also features an exceptional selection of mahogany that exhibits a vibrant crotch pattern. The front corners of the waist are fitted with inset quarter columns that are fluted. These terminate in turned wooden capitals and are set up on veneered plinths. This quarter column detail is successful in softening lines of the waist section and accentuating the narrowness of the form.

The bonnet or hood features a swan’s neck pediment. The molded arches are well executed. It is worth noting that they turn slightly upwards at the outside ends. The interior side of the moldings terminate in carved floral rosettes. Centered here is a carved cartouche. The most distinguishing Irish case feature is the convex molding positioned just below the arches. This frieze is skillfully carved with acanthus foliage centering the “Green Man” from Irish legend Below this molding is the bonnet door. This hood door is square and fitted with glass. Tapered and fluted pillars that terminate in ring turned capitals are positioned at the forward corners of the hood.

The square brass dial measures approximately 13 inches across. It is interesting to note that the London standard at this time was 12 inches. The four rococo style spandrels are applied to each corner of the dial. The chapter or time ring and the subsidiary seconds dial are also applied. These two applied rings and the calendar dial have been treated with a silver wash. This silver wash treatment provides and attractive contrast with the yellow color of the brass. The hours are indicated by Roman style numerals. Arabic numerals are used in each of the five minute locations. The center of this dial is matted. The hour and minute hands are easy to view against this textured backdrop. This dial is signed on the chapter ring by the Maker, “John Reilly” giving his working location as “Dublin.”

The movement is brass. It is designed to run an eight day duration. It will also strike each hour on the hour via a rack and snail set up. The plates are heavily cast and supported by four posts. It is of good quality.

This clock was made circa 1760 and stands just a touch over inches or half inches tall.

Irish tall case clocks are enjoying a surge in popularity today. As a result, they have become difficult for us to find and inventory. Looking at this example, one can see the influence that the Irish immigrants had on the best forms of American furniture.


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