Crafts, Arts, Hobbies

Rare 18th century English-made pagoda form automaton musical clock soars to $998,250 at Fontaine's

A rare 18th century English-made pagoda form automaton musical clock, made for the Chinese Qing Imperial Court, sold for $998,250 at Fontaine’s Auction Gallery.
This 18th century clock was made in England for the Chinese Qing Imperial Court.
( | Press Release | 2017-01-31 07:14:28 )
PITTSFIELD, Mass. – An exceedingly rare 18th century English-made pagoda form automaton musical clock, produced for the Chinese Qing Imperial Court, fell just shy of the $1 million mark when it sold for $998,250 (including buyer’s premium) at Fontaine’s Auction Gallery’s Antiques and Fine Art Auction, held January 21st in the firm’s gallery at 1485 West Housatonic Street.

The clock was magnificent: 50 inches tall (raised, on a large black wood block base). It weighed 100 pounds and had an engraved chessboard pattern brass top, with 5-inch painted metal dials on the front and both sides, and Roman hour numerals. The time movement triggered the automaton mechanism once every two hours, and the heavy bronze case had elegant color paste set jewels.

As beautiful as the clock was physically, it was equally enchanting musically. It played two different tunes on a nest of eight bells, including the old Chinese folk song Mo Li Hau, which has been popular since the 17th century, in China and elsewhere. The pagoda animated every two hours, corresponding to the 12-hour Chinese time system, and the music played every two hours.

The case form was based on the Pagoda of Nanjing (or the Temple of Repaid Gratitude), built in the 15th century, during the Chinese Ming dynasty. The structure was mostly destroyed in the 19th century, during the Taiping Rebellion, but with nine stories and a staircase in the middle, it was one of the tallest buildings in China and called one of the Seven Wonders of the World.

The clock was the expected top lot in a sale that featured over 450 items, including a fine clock collection, watches, music boxes, 19th and 20th century lighting, period furniture, oil paintings, bronzes, estate jewelry, silver and accessories. Internet bidding was provided by the platforms and, as well as Fontaine’s website,

The auction grossed just over $1.64 million. Following are additional highlight from the sale. All prices quoted include a 21 percent buyer’s premium.

E. Howard & Co. (Boston) clocks, popular with collectors, are a staple at most Fontaine’s clock auctions, and this sale had several, to include a floor standing regulator, signed and dated 1891, with gravity escapement by H. Conant, that sold for $24,200. Also, a Joseph Jennens oak 9-tube grandfather clock, 106 inches tall, with carved oak case attributed to R. J. Horner, hit $25,410.

A French industrial animated clock with a gilt brass case in the form of a vertical steam boiler, with moving parts animated by a spring-driven mechanism, mounted on a rouge marble base, brought $20,570; while a French figural mystery two-chain swinger clock with a standing cast metal figure of a woman wearing a floral crown and holding a bouquet of flowers, made $5,142.

A three-color Pairpoint Puffy Rose table lamp with 10-inch diameter reverse painted puffy shade with colorful roses on a green leafy background, on a molded spelter base with pyramidal poppy form, lit up the room for $9,377. Also, a large, room-size palace rug designed in four panels with birds and filigree, 159 inches by 255 inches, with no wear or repairs, changed hands for $6,352.

A pure white marble sculpture depiction of the mythological figure Diana, by Rafaello Battelli (It., 19th century), shown standing amongst a crescent moon and stars, 34 inches tall and signed, breezed to $19,360; and a large brown sculpture of two hounds (“Pompier” and Caron”), tied to a tree trunk, by Auguste Nicolas Cain (Fr., 1822-1894), 25 inches tall, signed, finished at $7,865.

Rounding out just some of the day’s top lots, a Gothic pierced bronze center coffee table with a gilt bronze octagonal base with Gothic arches, finials and wavy pierced decorated panels, rose to $5,142; and a large figural walnut carved elk head with antlers, mounted with natural elk horns on a self-framed filigree carved back panel, carved by “H. Leach,” 56 inches tall, fetched $6,050.

Fontaine’s Auction Gallery has several big Antiques & Fine Art Auctions planned for the first half of 2017, on March 25th, April 22nd , May 2nd and June 17th, all in the Pittsfield gallery with start times of 11 am Eastern time. These will feature fine clocks, watches, music boxes, 19th and 20th century lighting, exceptional furniture, paintings, bronzes, jewelry, silver and accessories.

Fontaine’s Auction Gallery is actively seeking quality items, to include furniture, lighting, clocks and watches, paintings, porcelains, bronze and marble statuary, Asian items, art glass and cameo glass, Russian objects, silver, musical, coin-op, advertising, toys, banks, gaming and carousel items for future sales. Consignments are currently being accepted for all the upcoming auctions.

The firm will buy outright or accept on consignment fine antiques, collections or entire estates. Call (413) 448-8922 and ask to speak with John Fontaine, or you can send Mr. Fontaine an e-mail to For more information about the company and the upcoming auctions in March thru June, please visit Updates are posted often.

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Press Information

Fontaine's Auction Gallery
1485 West Housatonic Street Pittsfield, MA 01201

(413) 448-8922

Contact person
John Fontaine


Published by

Ken Hall


Contact Ken Hall







Contact Fontaine's Auction Gallery






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