A massive French gilt-bronze animated singing bird clock that has the decorative elements continuing around the back and retains the original felt covered ebonized base. The colorful bird with original feathering is set within a naturalistic landscape and sings every hour for a full day when activated by the clock or continually when activated manually.
The massive elaborate gilt-bronze case has well-executed polychrome porcelain panels, canted corners with caryatids to all four corners and a particularly bold and well-detailed garland surmounted by two large frolicking doves draped over the fluted drum. The case, unlike any other we have seen, was designed to accommodate a large gong behind a fabric lined fretted gilt panel.
The animated bird is set within a naturalistic rockwork scene backed by a painted landscape and set behind three thick beveled glasses.
The blue porcelain chapter ring dial has black Roman numerals for the hours, white cartouche plaques framed by gilt scrollwork, a sunken engine-turned center with a Brocot outside escapement and a beaded bezel with a beveled glass.
The time and strike movement is stamped ‘D 220’, has the fast/slow out the front and strikes on the large gong with a hammer actuated by a string. It activates the bird animation movement via a rod routed down the back of the case 5 minutes before each hour.
The bird animation movement is housed in the base, is wound out the side and is controlled by a three-position lever routed out the bottom and to the side of the ebonized base. When manually activated the bird continually sings while moving its beak, flapping its tail feathers and rotating its head. When activated by the clock it does the same animation while singing a short section of the song every hour for an entire day.
It was originally purchased by Russel D. Stephens and remained in the family until we recently purchased it from his granddaughter.
Russell Day Stephens (1837-1916) was a California pioneer, traveling in a covered wagon with his family over the Carson Trail in 1849. He was active in the community, politics and renowned as fruit grower. Stephens grew fruit on the 100 acre farm on the American River where his family settled and was known for the quality of his produce particularly his Tokay grapes. In the face of adversity he implemented an irrigation system that proved successful and was instrumental in gaining improvements to the railroad refrigerated transportation systems.
All the individual pieces of the case are stamped ‘23’.
The base is signed M. Bontems in pencil under one of the structural pieces.
The house is the original location for the clock when shipped from Bontems.
Clock Alone – 25.5 in.
Clock on Base – 27.5 in.
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