Huntington Art Gallery: Mantel Clock (Back)

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This is one of a suite of five silent videos that focus on an object or architectural element on view in the first-floor period rooms of the Huntington Art Gallery. This video focuses on the back of the mantel clock on view in the small drawing room. Another video in this suite focuses on the clock’s front. The clock, the most significant one in The Huntington’s collection, has an esteemed pedigree. It was made for Prince Maximilian of Habsburg, the last elector and archbishop of Cologne, who is depicted in the upper medallion wearing ermine-trimmed robes. As brother to Marie-Antoinette of France, Maximilian developed a taste for Parisian luxury goods, particularly porcelain-mounted objects like this clock. Bought by Henry Huntington more than a century later, the clock became a suitable addition to the memorial collection he formed in honour of his wife Arabella, a devotee of the ill-fated queen. Several other versions of this clock were produced, each with slight differences. The variations between the clocks result from their production within the guild system of 18th-century France, which dictated what craftspeople were permitted to make. A clockmaker, for example, was permitted to make one thing only – the movement that ran the clock. The clock’s decorations – from the gilt-bronze figures to the porcelain plaques – were made in several different workshops led by different masters. All of the clock’s parts were brought together for assembly in the shop of a clock merchant, called a “marchand-mercier.”

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