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Clocks and automata

A large collection of French 18th-century clocks by leading clockmakers with cases by important cabinetmakers and bronze casters, mostly in working order. Some earlier German examples. A famous musical automaton in the shape of an elephant and several smaller examples.

There are clocks in almost every room at Waddesdon and most of them are in working order. Many are the work of some of the most important makers in 18th-century France who achieved the title of clockmaker to the king, such as Julien Leroy and Jean-André Lepaute. The cases for the clock mechanisms were made by Boulle, Cressent and other notable cabinetmakers. Others are sculptural achievements by leading bronze casters, for example Jacques and Philippe Caffiéri who created furnishings for many of Louis XV’s palaces.

Those combining porcelain figures and flowers on a gilt-bronze structure are typical of the 18th-century trade in luxury goods. Some, like one housed in a large figure of Orpheus playing his flute, are also musical automatons. Another automaton forms the base for an entire orchestra of monkeys in Meissen porcelain. The most famous of all is the large elephant whose eyes, ears, trunk and tail move, as do the surrounding flowers and figures, while the music plays.