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Cylinder Watch

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Cylinder Watch

Artist: Louis Raby (Paris, France; active 1848-1870)

Date: c. 1850
Medium: Silver, niello, gilt, enamel, steel
63.5 x 41.3 x 11.1 mm
Markings: Cuvette: "No. 1612, Louis Raby, Hger de l'Empereur, No. Bvart des Italiens, Paris" Case: "8", crab guarantee for .800 silver
Credit Line: Proctor Collection, Thomas R. Proctor Watch Collection
Object number: PC. 309
Label Text
The nielloed genre scenes on this watchcase recall eighteenth-century depictions of middle-class life.

Text Entries

At the end of the eighteenth century, watchcases were decorated with scenes from rustic life derived from the sentimental paintings of middle-class life by French artist Jean-Baptiste Greuze (1725-1805). Although this watch dates to the mid-nineteenth century, the genre scenes on both the front and back of the case are similar in design to those decorating enameled watches from Greuze’s period. On the reverse, a man and woman are strolling amid grape vines and leaves, the background and detailing executed in niello. The scene is rendered much as was the enameled scene of a strolling couple on another watch in the Institute’s collection (PC. 338), which dates to the last quarter of the eighteenth century. On the front side of this watchcase peasants enjoy an evening of gaming and drinking; a seated woman raises a glass in one hand and holds a jug in the other, while a man plays a fiddle. Niello was used for shading on the clothing and furniture. The background is gilt and Worked with fine dots in a verrniculate pattern with niello filling in the cells.

The movement on this watch was made by Louis Raby, who in the 1860s took over the firm of Achille Hubert Benoit (1804-95) in Versailles. In 1867 Raby exhibited a watch made of aluminum, which, for years after being produced in pure form from its oxide compound (alumina), was classified as a precious metal and used by many jewelers and some watchcase makers to fashion pieces.