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Pagoda-form automaton musical clock could strike $1.2M

Headlining Fontaine's Auction Gallery's Jan. 21 sale is a scarce automaton musical clock, dating to the 15th century. Constructed in the shape of a pagoda and gifted to the Chinese Qing Imperial Court, the clock carries an estimate of $800,000 to $1.2M into auction.

PITTSFIELD, Mass. – A rare 18th century English-made pagoda form automaton musical clock, produced for the Chinese Qing Imperial Court, is expected to soar to as much as $1.2 million at an Antique & Fine Arts Auction planned for Saturday, Jan. 21, by Fontaine’s Auction Gallery, 1485 Housatonic Street, Pittsfield, Massachusetts. The sale begins at 10 a.m. EST.

The automaton musical clock, one of more than 500 items in the sale, may achieve top lot. The auction offerings include a fine clock collection, watches, and music boxes. Plus, Tiffany lighting, exceptional furniture, oil paintings, and bronzes are on other. In addition, bidders will see estate jewelry, fine silver and accessories., and will facilitate Internet bidding.

Formidable Automaton Musical Clock Presents Unique History

Pagoda-form automaton musical clock

18th century English-made pagoda form automaton musical clock ($800,000-$1.2 million) (All photos courtesy Fontaine's Auction)

The pagoda-form automaton musical clock is 50 inches tall and weighs 100 pounds. It has an engraved chessboard pattern brass top. Plus, it features 5-inch painted metal dials on the front and both sides and Roman hour numerals. The time movement triggers the automaton mechanism once every two hours. And the heavy bronze case has color paste set jewels.

The Porcelain Pagoda of Nanjing (or the Temple of Repaid Gratitude) serves as inspiration for this clock. It was built in the 15th century, during the Chinese Ming dynasty. It 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 often called one of the Wonders of the World.

The automaton musical clock plays 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. The pagoda animates every two hours, corresponding to the 12-hour Chinese time system. The music also plays every two hours.

Regulators Poised to Draw Bidder Interest

The offer of clocks does not end with the automaton musical clock. This sale also offers several E. Howard & Co. (Boston) clocks, including a No. 61 floor regulator with the original signed 14-inch painted dial, 96 inches tall, estimated at $60,000 to $80,000; and a floor standing regulator, signed and dated 1891, with gravity escapement by H. Conant ($20,000-$30,000).

Visually arresting French clocks include an industrial clock. This example features a gilt brass case in the form of a vertical steam boiler. With parts animated by a spring-driven mechanism, the clock is expected to see 20,000 to $25,000. In addition, a silk thread bronze mantle clock depicting a scene from Le Volage Fixe, could see $20,000 to $30,000.

Abstract Art Highlighting Fine Art Offerings

Tops in the fine art category is a mixed media abstract composition drawing on paper by Fernand

Abstract composition by Leger

Fernand Leger (1881-1955) abstract composition ($25,000-$40,000).

Leger (1881-1955), monogrammed and signed “F.L.” lower right ($25,000-$40,000); and a pencil drawing on paper of a nude woman lying down with a bare breast and dark hair, ink-stamped ‘Tom Wesselmann’ (1931-2004; $20,000-$30,000).

Fine decorative accessories include a set of three silver mounted quartz covered urns: one large round and two egg-shaped carved clear crystal bowls that are being sold as one lot ($20,000-$30,000); and a Grueby George Kendrick-designed heavy matte green vase, 12 inches tall, with a 9-leaf carved design around the body ($12,000-$15,000).

Asian lots will be led by a large-size Da Qing Qianlong faux red lacquer porcelain vase, 19 inches tall, bulbous form, with gilt decorated chop seal characters and eight hound dogs, that should make $10,000 to $15,000; and a large room-size Persian rug designed in four panels with birds and filigree, impressive at 159 inches by 255 inches, and estimated to hit $4,000 to $6,000.

Art Glass Lamps Set to Shine

A large Tiffany art glass oil lamp, 35 inches tall, with an 11-inch diameter unsigned leaded green and opalescent swirl chunk jeweled glass globe, is on offer with an estimate of $12,000 and $15,000; and a flower holder desk lamp with a signed, decorated pine needle gilt shade, estimated at $3,000 to $5,000.

Two table lamps carry identical estimates of $6,000 to $8,000. A three-color Pairpoint Puffy Rose table lamp with a 10-inch diameter reverse painted puffy shade featuring colorful roses on a green leafy background carries much appeal. The other is a 20-inch Duffner & Kimberly Water Lily table lamp with geometric aqua blue staggered brick background with rows of lily pads.

Furnishings and Silver To Make Appearance

Tiffany Studios swirl chunk globe oil lamp

Tiffany Studios art glass oil lamp, 35 inches tall, with an 11-inch diameter unsigned leaded green and opalescent swirl chunk jeweled glass globe, has an auction house estimate of $12,000 to $15,000.

Furniture includes an 11-piece walnut Renaissance Revival bedroom suite with massive book-matched burled walnut bow front panels on the bed, with large turned and carved columns ($8,000-$12,000); and a John H. Belter pierce-carved rosewood marble-top étagère, 87 inches tall with a serpentine form and filigree carved crest ($6,000-$8,000).

Two silver lots share a $3,000 to $5,000 estimate. A Russian repoussé and hand-chased stein, 8 1/2 inches tall and weighing 33.7 troy ounces, conical in form with beaded and geometric borders and relief medallions will set the pace. The second, a 45.79 troy ounce Gorham “Athenic” Art Nouveau hand-chased repoussé pitcher with flowers and wavy filigree, rounds out the leading silver lots.

Previews will be Jan. 20, from 10 a.m.-5 p.m., and Jan. 21, auction day, from 8 a.m. until the first gavel falls at 10 a.m.

For more information, visit, email or call 413-448-8922.

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