The clock at Government House in Queensland.

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The catalogue description read: “Empire style mantel clock with clockwork marked Japy Freres, with bronze colored zinc alloy seated figure with hammer, anvil, locomotive, sphinxes and medallions, on alabaster base, ca. 1880, 34cm high, 43cm wide.”

Its seated figure and items featured (sledgehammer, ratchet jack, tri-square, anvil, coal/rock) are very similar to those on a clock held in the collection of Government House in Queensland, Australia.

I have been tasked with tracing the provenance of the clock in the Government House collection, but as there is no maker’s mark on the piece nor on the workings of the clock, I am seeking further information about it including the significance of these particular design elements or suggestions of the occasion/ event for which the clock may have been produced so that, at least, its meaning can be understood.

Would any of your ATG readers be able to tell me more?

Judith Anderson

Replies sent to will be forwarded to Judith and may appear here in a future issue.

ATG replies: This appears to be a fairly standard late 19th century French Empire Revival gilt metal example, maybe later gold painted rather than gilded.

The clock at Government House is similar in style to those designed by Frenchman Philippe H Morey (1840- 1920) though other examples include the maker’s mark PH Mourey. Morey was a sculptor who made clock cases for several makers. With regards to the significance of the items, we note that a clock very similar to the one that sold on appeared on the 1stDibs website where it sold for £1279 via a Berlin dealer.


A similar example sold at Arnhem auction house Derksen Veilingbedrijf for €110.

It included the following description: “A French 19th century alabaster mantel clock, the white enamel dial with Roman numerals within a bronzed metal case, flanked by a female figure wearing the laurel leaf crown of victor and holding a hammer, the whole being an allegory of manufacture and economic progress presented by its attributes of hammer, compass, anvil, gear wheel, model of a steaming engine, set square and a book.

“The alabaster base of breakfront form with a running bronzed band and two griffons holding a chain attached to the central mount of a draped female head. The alabaster socle is adorned by two porcelain badges depicting a Grecian female and a Grecian male portrait ‘en grisaille’. The combination of manufacture and Greek revival style leads straight to the ‘Exposition Universale’ in Paris of the late 19th century, equivalent to the ‘Great Exhibition’.”