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Minine and Pozharsky design malachite clock
March 1, 2016
This recently rediscovered clock was offered for sale by Christies Paris in their Exceptional Sale, Lot 522 / Sale 4057 4 November 2015.
This clock was manufactured 1815-1820 and signed by the master fondeur Pierre-Philippe Thomire. The magnificent timepiece 102h x 80w x 30d (cm) was commissioned by Count Nicholi Demidov (1773-1828). Though there are several, probably six, other known copies of this clock (Peterhof Palace with red marble base, Hermitage Museum, One sold At Christies, London 2003, Maison de Campagne de Prince Lopoukhine 1850) no others are known with malachite veneer. As the original was commissioned by Demidov he would have wished for the most lavish version.
Thomier had been commissioned by Count Demidov over several decades to produce giltbronze objects veneered in his malachite. Due to the markings in the stone it is clear that this came from the Demidov mines in Nisney Tagil in the Russian Urals.
The design is very much in the empire style and is based on the huge monument of Minin and Pozharsky in Red Square, Moscow. This national monument was sculpted by Ivan Petrovich Martos to celebrate Russia’s defeat over the Poles in 1620 and unveiled in 1818.
Nicholi Demidov lived in Florence were he had created a magnificent palace, San Donato, to house his unprecedented collection of masterpieces of fine and applied art. One room was furnished in malachite veneered furniture and many other examples are listed as having been in pride of place in other rooms these included the monumental "Demidov Vase", now in the Metropolitan Museum, New York. Sometime just before his death in 1828 Nicholi sat for a charming drawing where he is shown in a wheelchair with the clock clearly visible on the mantlepiece behind him. This drawing by J.B Fortune de Founier is dedicated to his son Paul Demidov.
After the death of Count Nicholi the clock remained in Florence until finally his son Anatole (1812-1870) sold it. Lot 1533 (3,550 lires).
The story continues intriguingly as an American company dealing in antiques, Messrs. Sypher & Co purchased it and showed it in their galleries. At some stage Columbia Pictures, Hollywood acquired the piece for their props studio (10-7-6169 coll. 2) where it appeared in several of their movies. The owner who sold it acquired the clock from Columbia-Warner Brothers’s Corporation.