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On view

Form Watch

Artist: Gottlieb Wisbach (Regensburg, Germany)

Date: c. 1880
Medium: Gold, enamel
63.5 x 31.8 x 27 mm
Markings: Movement: "Gottlieb Wisbach , Regensburg" Case: cm rect. cameo "K[?]", Vienna guarantee mark for 1872-1922
Credit Line: Proctor Collection, Thomas R. Proctor Watch Collection
Object number: PC. 380
Text Entries

Nearly every notable collection of watches has a watch in the shape of a mandolin, perhaps the most pervasive novelty form. These and other watches in the shapes of musical instruments were popular in France during the First Empire (1799-1815), when music dominated the arts and Ludwig von Beethoven (1770-1827) and Franz Schubert (1797-1828), among others, were creating their immortal compositions. Musical instruments were also a common motif on silverware during this period, most notably in the work of Paul Storr (1771-1844).(1) Similar motifs were revived at the end of the nineteenth century as seen in the work of Tiffany and Company and on the Institute‘s watch.(2)

This miniature mandolin has a pear- shaped body, a fingerboard or neck with six metal strings and numerous frets, and a gold chain to simulate the shoulder strap. The front surface is engine-turned with translucent red enamel accented with four green leaves and green enamel “sparkles” to simulate gemstones. An engraved laurel wreath on a white champlevé-enameled ground encircles the sound hole. On the bridge, the gold frets are set against a black enamel ground that continues onto the underside. An elegant serrated border provides a clear demarcation between the front and the back of the bridge.

The back of the mandolin is decorated with three panels of mint-green champlevé enamel with engraved leaves and trophies of music. These panels are bordered on either side by a stripe of engine-turned gold. Separating the three sections are two bands of red translucent enamel set with floral gold leaf and green “sparkle” enamel. The bands are framed by crosshatched borders and white enamel. The bottom is finished in white champlevé enamel with five gold rays. The mandolin has a hinged cover to reveal the watch dial.

1. For an illustration of one of a set of silver-gilt dessert stands with three figures playing musical instruments by Paul Storr or Storr & Co. for Rundell, Bridge & Rundell, see John Culme, Nineteenth Century Silver (London: Country Life Books, 1977), p. 20.

2. For an illustration of a tea caddy with music-playing grasshoppers, see Charles H. Carpenter Jr. and Janet Zapata, The Silver of Tiffany & Co., 1850-1987 (exhibition catalogue, Boston: Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Sept. 9-Nov. 8, 1987). p. 32.