An outstanding gilt-mounted japanned Musical Automaton Table Clock for the Turkish Market by George Prior, London, circa 1785.
The most impressive case having a flower japanned ground adorned with foliate gilt mounts, nine flambeau finials and four substantial, scrolling feet, the sides with carrying handles and highly decorative silk lined frets, the whole topped by a most attractive cut-glass dome decorated internally with gilt tendrils. The seven inch waisted dial with a brightly painted flower border, silvered chapter ring with Turkish numerals, matted centre with date aperture and signed on a silvered, recessed cartouche ‘George Prior, London’, having subsidiary dials for ‘strike/silent’ and tune selection, the arch painted with a harbour scene with automated ships which move when the music plays.
The three train fusee and chain eight day movement with six knopped pillars, verge escapement, trip repeat for the hours and music, playing one of four tunes on the hour or at will with thirteen hammers on a nest of nine bells, the backplate engraved with foliate scrolls and signed ‘Geo. Prior, London’.
27″ high (68cm).
George Prior (1735-1814) was the most significant clockmaker exporting to Turkey in the late eighteenth century, trading through British merchants established in the Ottoman ports. British diplomats had begun presenting clocks as gifts to Ottoman officials in the late seventeenth century in order to break in to a market for timepieces which was dominated by the French and Swiss. The eventual success of their efforts prompted a high demand for British clocks which led to the formation of lucrative export businesses like that of George Prior. Indeed, he was so well reknowned that the Turkish word ‘pyrol’, a derivative of ‘Prior’, was coined to describe a British made timepiece.