Girandole Wall Timepiece in mahogany. A bench-made example. 217120

This is very unusual example of a Girandole Wall Timepiece is unusual in that the frames are mahogany and have not been gilded. This beautiful American form was originally developed and made famous by the Concord, Massachusetts Clockmaker, Lemuel Curtis circa 1820. Traditionally, Curtis’s version featured gilded frames and is a very bright looking clock. The style and form are closely related to the girandole mirrors of the period.

Lemuel Curtis was a very talented apprentice of the Willard family. His apprenticeship started in 1802. In 1811, it is recorded that he moved to Concord and set up shop as a Clockmaker. Here he specialized in the production of finely made timepieces. Over the years he made several improvements in Simon Willard’s original design. An example of such an improvement is the single screw movement mounting system. The Curtis design used a screw to mount the movement to the case from the back of the backboard. This screw held the movement in place. Willard’s design used two screws that were diagonally positioned on the movement and screwed into the wood of the backboard from the front of the movement. Over time, the threading of the wood in the backboard has a tendency to fail and ultimately the original screws are replaced. Lemuel’s ultimate achievement would have to be the design of the Girandole form which is often called America’s most beautiful clock. However, this model was not a financial success. As a result, a small number were originally produced. Most of which are in the collections of our countries best museums. Two fine examples are currently on display at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.

Many reproductions of this original form have been made. The Waltham Clock Company made approximately 25 examples in the 1920’s. Since the 1970’s, individuals like Elmer Stennes, Ted Burleigh and Foster Campos all produced a limited number of faithful copies of the original form. This clock must have been bench made by an unidentified hobbyist.

This mahogany cased and mahogany framed example is in excellent original condition. The dark wood formatting is distinctive and very attractive. This case measures approximately forty-five inches in length. The case wood used is mahogany and is finished with shellac. This example features a number of carvings. The lower bracket is a traditional form. The carving here is nicely executed. The lower door frame features a ring of carved beads above the cove molding. Twenty-five brass balls are fitted to the bottom of the cove molding. The throat frame is decorated with a rope carving that runs the versicle length of this frame. The corner blocks are decorated with carved flowers. The bezel is wood. Here an additional twenty-five smaller brass balls are mounted. The eagle finial, well it is wonderfully executed. This is the larger of two versions Stennes seemed to favor. It’s wings are outstretched and its’ head is turned to the left. The eagle is standing on a traditional plinth. One foot is raised on a ball.

The two lower frames are fitted with reverse painted tablets. The egloimse’ convex panels are done in very good colors over a black background or field. The throat theme features an intricate theme that is traditionally formed. It is also signed “Patent” in the banner located in the lower section of this glass. The lower circular tablet depicts the scene of “Aurora” and is so titled. She pulls the chariot of the sun across the sky. The center of this scene is left open in order to view the motion of the pendulum. It will flash the reflected light as it passes across the opening. It is worth noting that not all Stennes painted glasses share the same level of artistic skill. These tablets are better than most.

The bezel opens to access the painted dial. The dial is painted on metal. This dial features much of the formatting found on a traditional Concord example having a gold ring inside the time track, Arabic hour numerals, and decoration around the center arbor hole and winding hole. The hands are a traditional Curtis form having concentric circles and barbed pointers. Who doesn’t like fancy hands? This dial must have been purchased from Foster Campos as surplus stock since his name is painted on the dial. One will also notice on close inspection that below the 6:12 position just outside of the time ring is a small pine tree painted on this dial.

The movement weight powered. It is a time only design and is constructed in is brass. It is designed to run eight days on a full wind. The front plate is die stamped with the numeral and name “FOSTER CAMPOS / 4 / PENBROKE, MA” on the front plate. It has recently been pointed out that this movement must have been purchased as surplus stock from Foster.

The sidearms are well formed and made of brass. (The sidearms are the decorations that are fitted to the sides of the case.) The shape of these are a traditional girandole form.

This decorative clock has great presence. We do not believe that is was made by Foster. We now believe that this clock was made shortly after his death with surplus parts by a talented cabinetmaker.


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