His primary market was the Far East, where mechanical clocks and automata were hugely popular, helping to redress the trade imbalance that existed between Britain and China in the 18th century.
Among his best-known works, made in the hope of a sale to the emperor Qianlong who owned several Cox creations, is the life-size silver swan automaton at the Bowes Museum, Barnard Castle.
The March 18 auction at Mellors & Kirk (20% buyer’s premium) in Nottingham included a more modest Cox ‘toy’: a 3in (7.5cm) paste and gilt metal automaton watch c.1770.
When the clockwork is wound the central dial and two star clusters rotate. It required some minor work but was apparently complete and in original condition. Estimated at £6000-8000, it took £11,000.
Following a famous sale of stock at James Christie’s in 1772, Cox managed a private museum in the Great Room at Spring Gardens, near Admiralty Arch. Among the exhibits was Oliver Cromwell’s head.
Ready for a clean
Also at Mellors & Kirk last month, a Georgian ‘heart and crown’ ring set with an ivory portrait miniature of a young woman and a rose diamond surround sold online for £2800. Although encrusted with dirt, all the stones were present and it promised a spectacular clean.