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Watch

Artist: Ludwig Helbig (Vienna, Austria)

Date: 1875-1900
Medium: Silver, silver gilt, enamel, gilt steel
Dimensions:
57.2 x 44.5 x 20.6 mm
Markings: Movement: "Ludwig Helbig in Wien"
Credit Line: Proctor Collection, Thomas R. Proctor Watch Collection
Object number: PC. 268
Label Text
This watch imitates Renaissance pan or basin watches in which the movement fits into a bowl form. Like the originals, the inside and outside of this case are enameled. The painting on the case bowl resembles the work of Impressionist painters who sought to create illusions of forms bathed in light.

Text Entries

Jewelry in the second half of the nineteenth century emulated the designs and techniques of the Renaissance style. The work of Neapolitan goldsmith and jeweler Carlo Guiliano (active 1861-95), who worked in London creating imaginative jewelry inspired by the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, epitomizes this trend. By the late 1880s Guiliano was making delicate polychrome enamel jewels.(1) Other jewelers working in London, including John Brogdon (active 1842085), Mrs. Philip Newman (active 1870-1910), and Enesto Rinzi (1836-1909), also embraced the neo-Renaissance style.(2) Whether the designs of these jewelers had any direct impact on the decoration of watchcases cannot be ascertained, but some watchmakers were creating examples that reflected Renaissance style at the same time.

This watch is signed on the movement by Ludwig Helbig of Vienna; however, the artisan who created the enamel decoration has not been identified. Like enameled watches from the seventeenth century, this watch is designed so that the movement fits into a case bowl that, similar to the “pan” or “basin” watches of its predecessors, is enameled inside and out. The landscape inside the case bowl and the mythological scene outside are reminiscent of the watches done by French maker Jean Toutin (active 1604-44).(3)

The case bowl shows a painted enamel riverbank scene with water, trees to the left and right, and mountains in the background. It is done in a manner resembling the work of the impressionist painters who sought to create the illusion of forms bathed in light and atmosphere.(4) The medallion on the exterior of the case features a painted enamel scene of a maiden leaning against a tree and chastising a winged putto, who appears to be crying; the two are probably a representation of Venus and Cupid. The band surrounding the scene is enameled with scrolls and grotesque masks in muted colors of red with a light beige background, colors characteristic of the late nineteenth century. The dial is enameled with the picture of a woman in clouds, who may represent the soul in heaven; the two figures on the case may be mourning for her.  

 

1. For more information about Carlo Guiliano and his Renaissance-style jewelry, see Geoffrey Munn, Castellani and Guiliano: Revivalist Jewellers of the 19th Century (New York: Rizzoli, 1984), pp. 119-120, pl. 159.

2. For more information on these other jewelers, see Geoffrey Munn, Castellani and Guiliano: Revivalist Jewellers of the 19th Century (New York: Rizzoli, 1984), pp. 165-66, 175, 176, and fig. 174 for a necklace and earrings by Rinzi.

3. Jean Toutin is credited with perfecting the technique of painting on enamel. For an illustration of a painted enamel watchcase by Toutin, see Catherine Cardinal, Watch from Its Origins to the XIXth Century. Translated by Jacque Pages (Avon, Eng.: Artline Editions, 1989), p. 142, pl. 105.

4. Claude Monet, the major exponent of this style, sought to capture light as it played across the surface of church facades, bridges, and haystacks at different times of the day.