Imagine the stories about who made these timepieces and how.
There is something about their graceful lines, the wonderful faded paint and the unpredictable intricacy and personality of Swedish long-case clocks that captivates me. These are hand-made pieces, fashioned slowly by craftsmen with without power tools, and painted without the aid of good lighting or magnification. Yet their decoration and carving is exquisite. Often referred to Mora clocks (after the town of Mora in Sweden’s Dalarna province) this type of paint-decorated clock was made throughout Scandinavia. Swedish clocks have their quirks. Though mostly made by men they have feminine silhouettes and they can be surprisingly tall. Numerals on the faces were often drawn in unstable India ink – and must never be wet.
This week, I spotted a unique and unusual green Rococo clock [top] in an auction catalog (irony: in emerald, the “new” color). This one was made in Stockholm and signed by the maker. At 7-feet 9-inches it is also nearly ceiling height in most homes. Sadly, it’s missing a key part – the pendulum. But the gilded chinoiserie motifs on the case are stellar. I wanted to show it and I’ve added the rest of off my virtual clock collection. Please bear with me on these photos which I compiled while shopping for my own clock. They are very long and narrow and require a good, slow scroll.
A less intricately carved, faded green clock is wonderfully curvaceous. The crown is flat and simple and the bezel contrast-painted a sea-water blue.
I wish thought I had a better and larger picture of this gorgeously carved clock painted a sky blue with natural wood detailing but I don’t. This was taken from an auction site about six years ago. While the head is a bit large for the clock, there is an extraordinary ribbon detail on the crown in addition to lovely garlands on the base and flowers on the belly. As I recall, it sold for around $10,000.
Does this shade of blue look familiar? How about the urn on the top? Think Wedgwood. Of all the blue shades, this is my favorite and the decoration is done in the same contrasting colors as some of the iconic china. I also love the bracket feet, the acanthus leaf motif on the base, and the priceless classical urn on the crown.
Wonderfully ornate, a Gustavian gray clock looks like a blend of curvy Rococo motifs mixed with the more formal Neoclassical style that followed it. Note the difference in the blocky base as opposed to a pair of “feet.”
On a visit to one of my favorite antique dealers, Cupboards and Roses in Lenox, Mass., this early 19th century polychrome clock almost made me faint. Initialed and dated 1845 in the neck, it has the most subtle mix of colors on the body and in the base, where the carved harlequin (diamond-shape) pattern seems inspired by an antique Italian clown costume.
There’s something about the 18th century Swedish salmon furniture color that I find compellingly beautiful even though this is not a color I would otherwise say I like at all. It always looks so unexpected and I’ve seen stunning pieces where it’s combined with salmon-skin black. At some point, the raised carving must have been painted a contrasting color but there’s a ghostly quality here now, even to the country sunflowers. The crown has a wonderful smooth eyelet ring (echoed in the belly) while the diagonal lines in the Neoclassical base make it look very much like a pair of slacks.