A Benjamin Vulliamy Mantel Clock Made for William Beckford

A Benjamin Vulliamy Mantel Clock Made for William Beckford
Height: 9 1/2" 24.5cm
Width: 9" 23cm
Depth: 4 3/4" 12cm
Origination: English
Provenance: William Beckford, delivered March 5,1799 Bought at Auction in Portugal, 2008 Dealing in Excellence, A Celebration of Hotspur & Jeremy, Christies London 20.11.2008 Private Collection, USA
Circa: 1799

The clock’s design was one of a series of ‘lion’ timepieces, with drum cases, flanked by lions, on rectangular ashford marble plinths enriched with ormolu mounts. The clock is listed in one of Vulliamy’s two surviving work books housed at the Royal Horological Institute at Upton Hall.

The Clock Engraved Benjamin Vulliamy, London No 309

Benjamin Vulliamy was the son of a Swiss watchmaker who emigrated to London and married the daughter of the King’s Watchmaker, Benjamin Gray. Towards the end of the eighteenth century Vulliamy was very successfully competing with French makers supplying ornamental clocks in the neo-classical taste. By the 1800’s his success led him to expand his repertoire. Taking advantage of wartime restrictions on the import of French luxury goods, he began producing exquisite ornaments for the wealthiest connoisseurs in Britain; including the Prince of Wales.

William Beckford ( 1759-1844)
Beckford built Fonthill Abbey in Wiltshire which was a vast Gothic revival mansion with a splendid central tower in which he housed his great art collection. He used as his architect the equally celebrated James Wyatt.  Beckford had inherited the Fonthill estate from his father Alderman William Beckford which included a Palladian mansion called Fonthill Splendens.

Sadly Beckfords debts forced the sale of Fonthill Abbey and its contents over a series of sales which began in 1822, when some 2000 lots of furniture, pictures and objects were auctioned off, together with some 20,000 books ( cf. The Unique and Splendid Effects of Fonthill Abbey… The property and the most significant contents were purchased by John Farquhar who later consigned many of the objects to Phillips where Beckford and his son-in-law the Duke of Hamilton, were able to buy back much of it for prices considerably lower than Beckford had originally paid.

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