17th Century Italian glass and gilt metal table clock


This very fine and very rare early table clock is a tour de force of 17th century clockmaking, its complex mechanism and intricate detailing exhibiting exceptional high-quality craftsmanship.


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Tucked away in the annals of horological history, this very fine table clock is a magnificent timepiece from the 17th century. This extraordinary artifact is a testament to the artistry, craftsmanship, and mechanical ingenuity of its time.

Resembling an obelisk in its form, this timepiece, crafted in glass and veiled in gilt, presents a striking and symbolic display. It is composed of a glass and gilt brass box base, topped by a glazed pyramid, within which various elements of the clock are showcased.

The clock's inner workings, a meticulously assembled mechanism, are not hidden away, as one might expect. Instead, they are revealed within the lower base, which features carved fluted square column corners and gilt foliage framing, and which rests on four turned bun gilt feet. The mechanism in brass is rectangular within the base, fusee with gut line, featuring a verge escapement, fitted with a flat balance spring.

The transparent base serves a dual purpose, acting as a protective casing for the delicate mechanics while allowing admirers a full view of the clock's intricate workings. The complexities of the gears, cogs, and wheels in motion become an enchanting spectacle of precision and showcase the quality of the craftsmanship but also the sophistication of the 17th Century technology.

The rectangular box is then adjoined to the glass pyramid by a gilt carved column. The pyramid’s mountings are chased with gilt foliage and in its centre, a gilt orb, with a silvered plaque inscribed with Roman numerals, displays the times through a blue steel pointer. The orb is then topped by a gilt bronze flame finial. This unusual way of displaying time is a tour de force by this clock’s craftsman.

Crowning the pyramid, another flame-shaped gilt decoration stands. Flames, often symbolizing enlightenment, life, and rebirth, add a spiritual dimension to the timepiece, evoking thoughts of the cycle of time, while nodding to the principles of the Baroque.

The clock is dated beneath the base ‘Anno D. 1668’ testifying to the history of the piece and the base is inscribed in Latin ‘DOMINI IOANNISGAIGNE REGI A PRAEFECTI EX DONO CONS ILIIS IN AERARIO SVESSI’ . SVAE ET QYAESTORIS ET.’ This inscription can be translated as ‘Gifted by M. Giovanni Gaigne, Treasurer and Chairman of the council of advisors of the public treasure from Sessa’.

This 17th-century gilt obelisk-shaped clock represents a blend of art, mechanics, symbolism, and innovation. It is not only a timekeeping device but a statement piece that embodies the spirit of its time, serving as a remarkable testament to the innovative spirit of this period’s craftsmanship.


On sale at Antiquorum Auctioneers, Geneva, 23rd October 1999, Hotel Des Bergues Sale, Lot 522.


Country of Origin
Date of Manufacture
18th Century and Earlier
Gilt Brass, Gilt Metal, Glass, Ormolu (Gilt Bronze), Silvered Metal


28 cm / 11 inches
9 cm / 3.5 inches
7 cm / 2.8 inches


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