Joseph Ives mirror clock hits $9,200 at Converse sale

A large wall-mounted mirror clock made by the New England clockmaker Joseph Ives (Bristol, Conn., 1782-1862) sold for $9,200 at a two-part auction that featured nearly 250 lots of vintage clocks and horology-related items. The auction was held Dec. 29 at the Italian-American Club in Wayne, Pa., by Gordon S. Converse & Co.

The reverse painted and mirror wood-cased clock, often referred to as a “looking glass” clock, was the top lot of the sale. Joseph Ives invented and patented the mirror clock, probably around the 1830s. He also invented the roller pinions used in clocks (and they were featured in this fine example). This was the first auction dedicated exclusively to clocks and horology by Gordon S. Converse & Co.

“Although there has been a significant drop in demand for antiques and antique clocks over the last few years, this sale may have marked a point where the demand is slowly returning,” said Gordon S. Converse. “About half the total lots were wood shelf clocks dating to the early 19th century, and they all sold. Most came after spirited bidding, and in many cases the final price was higher than expected.”

About 100 people packed the Italian-American Club in Wayne (a suburb of Philadelphia, located a half-hour west of the city). In addition, over 200 people registered online, with Internet bidding facilitated by LiveAuctioneers.com. “More than one-third of the sales were to online bidders,” Converse remarked.

Following are additional highlights from the sale. All prices quoted include a 15 percent buyer’s premium.

Three clocks topped the $6,000 mark. A fine Federal tall case clock with a solid mahogany case (probably N.Y./N.J., circa 1790-1810) chimed on time for $6,900; a looking glass shelf clock signed “Sawin” (John Sawin, Boston, 1810-1863), rare because of its strike mechanism, realized $6,038; and a French industrial “lighthouse” clock, 22 inches tall and with an oscillating light at the top, hit $6,325.

A Federal banjo timepiece made in New England by William Cummens (an apprentice of the renowned clockmaker Simon Willard) hammered for $5,175; and a magnificent and large late 19th century or early 20th century chiming library clock garnered $2,588. “That chime clock got more views than any other item on our website,” Mr. Converse commented. “I’m surprised it didn’t sell for more.”

Three clocks brought identical sale prices of $4,025: a tall case clock in a fine Federal mahogany case, with eight-day clockworks signed “Nathaniel Monroe, Concord” on the painted dial; a very rare mid-19th century torsion pendulum clock by Aaron D. Crane (American, 1804-1860); and a fine gilt bronze encased 6 ½-inch French porcelain paneled carriage clock with four Sevres oval inserts. The last two clocks went to foreign buyers.

A late 19th century French-made industrial “lighthouse” clock, plated with bronze, silver and gold and with an oscillating light at the top breezed to $3,450; a gilt wood and eglomise painted glass banjo timepiece signed Curtis and Dunning (Burlington, Vt.) went to a determined bidder for $3,162; and an Austrian wall timepiece with ripple molding and signed on the dial “H. Bertl, Wein” hit $3,105.

A wonderful double-dialed calendar shelf clock, labeled Ithaca Calendar Clock Company (the 3 ½ Parlor model) climbed to $1,955 (“I wasn’t sure it wasn’t a reproduction it was in such good shape,” remarked Mr. Converse); a 19th century 37-inch mahogany marine barometer by L. Walker of England commanded $1,495; and a shelf clock by John Birge (Bristol, Conn., 1785-1862) gaveled for $1,495.

A mahogany veneer double steeple shelf clock, labeled “Elisha Manross” and with a rare double fusee mechanism, coasted to $1,265; a rare balance wheel-operated, spring-driven, painted cast iron and nacre inlay 10 ½ inch cottage timepiece signed by Noah Pomeroy (Bristol, Conn., 1813-1896), earned $460; and a wood-front rectangular shelf clock by J. C. Brown (Bristol, Conn.) made $402.50.

Two lots that didn’t fetch high dollar figures but were interesting nonetheless were a 20th century pillar and scroll clock labeled Elmer Stennes, always a draw because he famously was imprisoned for killing his wife and was himself murdered ($258.75); and a pair of American ogee clocks (which are almost never offered at auction in pairs), each one with hand-colored reverse painted glass ($230).

About Art After X

With the death of President Kennedy in 1963, America changed. As hard as it is to minimize that sentiment, the effect of Dallas was even greater. The same year saw the merging of the Dallas Museum for Contemporary Arts, which had been central to the art scene, and the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts. Douglas MacAgy, then the director of DMCA, not only opposed the merger, but also declined to directorship of the combined museum. The regionalist movement which had been strong for decades, was giving way to more of an interest in what was going on nationally, and internationally. Like it or not, Dallas was on the national stage. When the Kennedy’s arrived in Fort Worth, local collectors had decorated a hotel room with internationally-renowned works. While the president and his wife learned a great deal about the ability of Texans to collect major art, there was little they could glean about the local scene in this era-defining city. With this in mind, we have begun a project to look not back at the art scene in Dallas, but foreword from 1963. We are interviewing gallery owners, curators and others involved in the art scene then, but this will be a story told mostly through interviews with artists active in the city from that point into the 1980s. The result will be a book with a video component. We hope you will join us in our journey. The hashtag for the project is #artafterx and the url artafterx.com will point to the latest updates on this weblog.

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