Student, Emmanuelle Sibley who is currently undertaking a Graduate Diploma in Conservation Studies specialising in Clocks and Related Objects, at West Dean College of Arts and Conservation was given the opportunity to conserve the prestigious Kings’ Clock in time for the re-opening of The Courtauld Gallery. The Courtauld Gallery is home to one of the greatest art collections in the UK, located in the magnificent historical setting of Somerset House in central London, and will reopen on Friday, November 19, 2021.
This important clock and case was designed by William Chambers (1723-1796) and made by the leading industrialist and manufacturer Matthew Boulton (1728-1809) with the clockmaker being John Whitehurst (of Derby). It is a version of the clock-case Boulton and Chambers originally made for King George III in Windsor Castle. Dating from 1772, the clock measures 21cm wide by 27.5cm long and 47cm high and was purchased in 1991 by the Samuel Courtauld Trust with the assistance of the National Heritage Memorial Fund, National Art Collections Fund, Wolfson Foundation, Pilgrim Trust, Monument Trust, Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths and the MLA/ V&A Purchased Grant Fund.
Alexandra Gerstein, McQueens Curator of Sculpture and Decorative Art at the Courtauld Gallery, commented: “We have been working with West Dean College for several years and were very pleased to ask them to help us with the Kings Clock-case. We do not have specialist object conservators, in house, so have a good relationship with West Dean and over many years have called upon their conservation students to work on a variety of objects requiring specialist skills.”
She continues: “The most important works in the collection are on display permanently in the Gallery. When The Courtauld reopens, the clock-case will be displayed in the 18th-century room. It will, appropriately, be shown atop William Chambers's Gower House table, which was designed at the time the architect was beginning to work on Somerset House. Together the clock and the sumptuous giltwood table exemplify Chambers' boldly sculptural approach to classical ornament.”
Emmanuelle Sibley explains: “The clock conserved at West Dean was an example of a spring driven fusee table clock, with verge and crown wheel escapement, while the case has been gilded and highly decorated with contrasting blue john panels, with urns on the top. The work that had to be undertaken included dismantling the movement and dry cleaning to prevent unnecessary risk to the lacquer. The top potence bush was filed down enough to give the escape wheel sufficient endshake and a block of mild steel was hard soldered onto the broken fusee click - it was then cut and filed to the correct profile, using the unbroken one as a guide.”
West Dean College of Arts and Conservation has an international reputation for excellence and is a full partner of the University of Sussex. Students regularly work with material from the College’s amazing Collection and Archive, as well as objects from museums and private collections, due to the College’s extensive links with the heritage sector. For Conservation and Fine Art study opportunities, see www.westdean.ac.uk. Applications for Conservation Studies specialisms including Books, Ceramics, Clocks, Furniture and Metalwork are open now for September 2022 study. Find out more on the Virtual Open Days on November 10, 17 and 24 – register online now.
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