A magnificent clock by Samuel Fish, the Strand, London, in a solid mahogany case and a Chinese pagoda-shaped top hood attributed to the shop of Thomas Chippendale. 221132

In Brian Loomes’ “Watchmakers and Clockmakers of the World,” Samuel Fish is listed as working in London before 1794. However, by the time he had set up shop, the city of London had been the leading center of clockmaking for more than 100 years. In fact, London was the center of the world in terms of commerce and influence in many respects. As a result, clocks made there were of the latest styles and often of the best quality. This Chippendale-style case is an excellent representation of that.

Samuel Fish certainly had access to Thomas Chippendale’s renowned furniture workshop. Chippendale’s business was also located in the Strand. In 1754, Chippendale had written a design book entitled, The Gentleman and Cabinet-Maker’s Directory. This book became a popular guide for furniture forms. So much so that it enjoyed three separate printings. As a result, Thomas enjoyed a high-level success representing the current British furniture fashions. This book is regarded as the first comprehensive trade catalog of its kind. After his death, his son took over the family business, and it remained there until 1813. Samuel Fish most likely ordered this case out of the Chippendale cabinet shop for a very well-to-do client. Thomas Chippendale and other English cabinetmakers and architects incorporated pagodas, lattice-work, and other elements inspired by Asian design into various furniture forms. This example is complex and successfully designed.

This case exhibits a Chinese Chippendale influence and features wonderful figured mahogany wood selections throughout its construction. In addition, highly figured mahogany veneers are positioned in the Hollywood locations of the form for maximum effect. These areas include the applied base panel and the entire length of the waist door. The mahogany wood features a rich, warm, and pleasing color. The older finish compliments this piece of animated furniture. The case is supported on boldly shaped ogee bracket feet formed from the applied bracket base molding. The lower line of this pattern creates the bottom of the double drop apron. The lower base molding is an interesting form. The cove molding is slightly exaggerated and almost forms a “c.” The base section and the applied panel feature an active grain structure. The crotch mahogany veneered panel is trimmed with a stepped molding. Moving up the case, the base section transitions into the waist section via a large cove-shaped molding. The waist is long and fitted with a large, full-size waist door. This tombstone-shaped door is also trimmed with applied molding. The front surface is veneered with an outstanding selection of crotch mahogany that is impossible to dismiss. The grain pattern builds upon itself as it raises upwards. The door is hinged and secured with a lock. Open this, and one can access the two brass-covered lead drive weights and brass-covered pendulum bob. The upper waist molding is decorated with skillfully executed cavings. The Gothic-style carvings in the cove section emulate weight-bearing supports for the hood. The bonnet or hood can be described as a break arch form. It is obvious that it is much more complex than that. Above the arch molding is an intricate Chinese-style pagoda pediment. Foliate carvings sweep in and upwards from the arch and frame the first series of lattice-work. This interpretation of lattice-work is carved and intertwines on itself. Red silk fills the areas that are pierced. Above this, multiple cavings radiate outwards from the center. This demonstrates flow as they are turned in a downward direction. The second interpretation of a carved lattice design is positioned in the sides of the rectangular-shaped box. This box supports an additional series of carvings that are reminiscent of waves. The waves reach out and upwards, cradling the six-sided inverted cone. The top of the cone is fitted with an intricately carved urn finial. The Gothic-style bonnet columns visually support the arched molding. Each is comprised of eight wooden turned columns. They are located on the corners of the bonnet. The sides of the hood are fitted with rectangular-shaped openings. Carved frets backed in red silk decorate the windows. The bonnet door is arched and fitted with glass. It opens to access the dial.

This style of brass dial predates the painted dial. Brass dials have always been very expensive to manufacture. This is due to the fact that brass is the most costly material used in constructing a clock. This dial form is constructed with a sheet of brass that is decorated with applied cast brass spandrels, applied rings that are treated with a silver wash, an inset subsidiary seconds dial, and a calendar aperture with a calendar date ring. The four spandrels are a rococo form and are cast in yellow brass. The lunette is fitted with a lunar calendar. This is decorated with paint. The arch and the half circles are decorated with engravings. The large ring is the time ring. The hours are indicated in large Roman-style numerals. A closed minute ring separates the hours from the Arabic-style five-minute makers. The Clockmaker’s signature and his working location are engraved in a script letter format across the middle of the dial. A subsidiary seconds dial is located in the traditional location. Interestingly, it features Arabic figures at ten-second intervals. Aspects of this dial are treated with a silver wash for contrast.

The movement is constructed in brass, having nicely finished cast rectangular-shaped brass plates which are supported by ring-turned brass posts. The gearing is brass, and the pinions are hardened steel. This mechanism is weight-driven and designed to run eight-days on a full wind. The winding barrels are grooved. This clock strikes each hour on a bell mounted above the plates. The strike train is located between the plates and is actuated by a rack and snail design. The movement is supported on a seatboard. The pendulum features a metal rod and a brass-faced lead bob.

This clock was made circa 1795. The case is approximately 107 inches tall (8 feet 11 inches). At the feet, this clock is 21.5 inches wide and 10.5 inches deep. It is of excellent quality.


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