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  Reader's letter | July 2014 | Clocks Magazine

Another picture clock

It was a delight to read Howard Bradley’s recent article on the picture clock (Clocks, June 2014). I have read about these in books but had never seen one until two weeks ago.

DeCarle's Encyclopedia describes them always as a church or tower with an actual clock set in it and fitted as a rule with a 30-hour verge watch movement.

I visited an antique and collectables shop in the centre of Kingston-upon-Thames, London, and found a picture clock hanging on a wall in a small section dedicated to clocks (Clock Wise, Tel: 01784 881968) and of Strasbourg. The picture frame and painting needed some restoration and were dull and needed cleaning beyond my expertise as an amateur hobbyist. The clock was a German 30-hour movement with a working musical box and a one-year guarantee and at £175 a bargain.

However the picture clock had a recess of some 2in or 3in behind the frame to house the mechanism and maybe to fit into a wall recess and as the whole frame was quite large and having nowhere to put it I dismissed it as cumbersome but fascinated by it so I took some pictures on my mobile phone for interest value, see picture

(I very often taken photographs of town hall/church clocks of interest and have indeed seen the Lady Godiva clock many years ago as mentioned in last month’s magazine.)

I have thought about it since but I am currently absorbed carefully gently cleaning/oiling an 1830s French Empire mantel clock which was owned by Ava Gardner and sold at Sotheby's after her death in 1990. Where it’s been over the years and who has owned it would be an interesting story if only I knew but I have the sale catalogue and picture of it sitting in pride of place in her lounge at her Kensington apartment, see picture.

When I saw Mr Bradley’s informative article and that he had completed a restoration I immediately thought it was identical but a closer look shows the painting to differ slightly although the frame is similar and probably by the same manufacturer in the 1870s. In any case mass-production of the same painting was unlikely at that time so perhaps different artists were paid to paint the Strasbourg clock which I was lucky enough to visit last December while on a Christmas markets visit. Very atmospheric it was too! Thanks to Clocks for the photographs which were of help in understanding it better.

Martyn Capewell, UK

Howard Bradley writes: Thanks to Mr Capewell for his fascinating message.

First let me say that the painting on my clock is oil painted over a lithograph, a technique fairly common if not very creative. As I had to do an enormous amount of restoration on the picture, my first reaction was that the differences you found were due to to my inexact interventions. However, closer comparison shows that the two pictures are indeed different, yours is viewed from further back so the field of view is different.  So what do we conclude?  We are in 1871, there is a wave of patriotic fervour and everybody wants one, or more sinister (as at the French revolution) not to have something politically correct left one suspect. So there is a sudden and probably short-lived market.  It's not mass-production, more like mass-copying, but there it is!

Delighted to share this little bit of history with you, I hope sharing it has given you as much pleasure as it has me.

By comparison the mechanism is mundane!

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