Simon Willard Roxbury Tall Case Clock
This exceptionally rare and enchanting grandfather clock is a remarkable treasure of American craftsmanship. Superiorly hand-carved of fine mahogany and ...
more This exceptionally rare and enchanting grandfather clock is a remarkable treasure of American craftsmanship. Superiorly hand-carved of fine mahogany and standing over 8 feet high, this clock boasts ties with three of the most important figures in the American furniture industry.
First, the complicated movement was crafted by famed clockmaker Simon Willard, who remains the most well-known clockmaker in early American history. Second, the case was constructed by the furniture maker Thomas Seymour, who, along with his father John, was considered Boston’s leading Federal-era cabinetmaker. Third, the piece was later retailed by the legendary Israel Sack, a man whose name has become synonymous with the finest in American antiques.
Willard and Seymour are known to have collaborated on only a handful of grandfather clocks during their careers, including the present timepiece. Two other examples from Sack’s historic collection can be found today in the Yale University Art Gallery, while other comparable clocks by Willard are held in the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York) and the Winterthur Museum (Delaware).
An inventor as well as a clockmaker, Willard was renowned for his superior workmanship and innovative movements, such as his highly popular “Improved Timepiece,” or “banjo” clock, which he patented in 1801. His high-quality designs earned him a wealthy clientele including Thomas Jefferson, who commissioned a clock for the University of Virginia and became a close friend of the clockmaker. His celebrated “Roxbury” tall case clocks such as this one are among the most highly prized of his exceptional output.
Willard’s renowned eye for detail is seen in every inch of this spectacular timepiece. The hand-painted dial features the moon's phase in the arch, while golden scrollwork decorates each of the spandrels. Seconds bit and a calendar aperture add a further dimension to the piece, which tells the time on both Roman and Arabic numerals.
A marriage of masterful mechanics and cabinetmaking, the case itself is beautifully proportioned and an important example of the superb craftsmanship of Thomas Seymour. Made of mahogany, it features an elegant arched bonnet crown with three brass finials surmounting the pierced scrolling fretwork. Such crowning was remarkably popular during the Federal period, though few examples achieve the balance of intricacy and grand proportion as the present piece. A similar tall case clock by Seymour is currently held in the Oval Office of the White House.
Combining Willard's genius for mechanics and Seymour's discerning design, this clock truly stands out as a shining example of superior American furniture. It is little wonder that such a clock would be retailed by the prominent New York antique dealer Israel Sack, who is renowned to this day for his unequaled eye for quality and style. Born and educated in Lithuania, Sack emigrated to Boston in 1903, where he developed a passion for the restrained lines and elegant proportions of American furniture. In 1905, he opened his own furniture repair shop, while also gradually acquiring pieces to restore and sell. At the time, few people recognized the artistry in American antiques, preferring instead their English and French counterparts. By the 1920s, however, regard for American decorative arts had flourished, and Sack emerged as the country’s leading dealer in the field. Today, he is thought to have single-handedly developed a market for American antiques, and items with an Israel Sack provenance are widely regarded as the very best of American design and craftsmanship. This rare clock is chief among them.
From the elegant case and the complex movement to the extraordinary quality of the workmanship and its overall grandeur, this tall case clock is perhaps the greatest American clock on the market today.
A brass plaque reads “Given by John Goddard as a wedding gift to his son Benjamin Goddard, M. Louisa May, 1793”
Dial signed “Simon Willard”
98” high x 21” wide x 10 1/2” deep
Mr. Benjamin Goddard, Roxbury, Massachusetts, 1793
Thence by descent
Israel Sack, Inc., New York
Private collection, Connecticut, 1990
M.S. Rau Antiques, 2017 less