A very fine antique Federal mahogany rocking ship tall case clock by Aaron Willard Jr, Boston, circa 1815-20. The case attributed to Thomas Seymour.
This attractive tall clock case is among the finest produced in all of Boston. It houses a superlative oversized dial with a richly painted lunette portraying a detailed costal landscape with a rocking ship. Dials of this type are typically housed in premium clock cases produced by the best cabinetmakers of Boston. The impressive size, refined proportions, superb wood selections along with specific construction details, indicate that the case was likely produced in the cabinet shop of John & Thomas Seymour. This is further confirmed by the distinctive delicate scrolling fretwork, which is found on several similar cases, including a signed example, found in the White House collection. Additionally, this magnificent case bears the original paper label of the clockmaker Aaron Willard Jr. inside the pendulum door. The wonderful qualities and condition of this case are augmented by the extraordinary dial, which was produced for this prominent Boston clockmaker, successfully establishing this as a premier example among Boston clocks.
Aaron Willard Jr. [1783-1864], the son of renowned clockmaker Aaron and nephew to Simon Willard, was a prolific Boston clockmaker for over forty-five years beginning at the completion of his apprenticeship in 1804. Aaron Jr., who produced many patent timepieces or banjo clocks, is also well known for his fine tall case clocks. He made impressive clocks such as this, including a very similar example in the American wing at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, [see attached].
The molded hood is mounted with three reeded chimneys, which frame an elegant, delicately scrolled and pierced fretwork. The chimneys are mounted with large brass urn and phoenix bird finials. The fretwork and chimneys rest atop a molded arched cornice, all above a mahogany cross-banded, glazed tombstone-form dial door. Reeded colonnettes with brass capitals and bases flank this door, which has a brass lock and keyhole surround. It opens to a finely painted iron dial of Boston origin. Each side of the hood has a glazed rectangular window.
The dial features a richly detailed painted concave lunette decorated with a costal landscape with a shoreline cottage fitted with a painted ship that rocks with the motion of the pendulum. The dial is framed with four brightly painted corner spandrels. Roman numerals demark the hour and Arabic numerals demark the minutes at the quarter hours. The dial is fitted with a seconds bit with steel pointer above the center arbor and a calendar window below. The center arbor is fitted with wonderful original cut steel hands with rare open crescent-form pointers. Two winding arbors for the time and strike trains, are located at either side of the center arbor. The dial is signed on two lines below the center arbor with the maker’s name and location “Aaron Willard Jr. / BOSTON”.
The hood transitions to the waist section with a broad flared cove molding. The waist is set with reeded quarter columns with brass capitals and bases flanking a molded rectangular pendulum door. The panels surrounding the door have richly grained mahogany veneers. The pendulum door has an applied molding around a mahogany cross-banded border and a vibrantly figured central panel. This door opens to an original paper label that is affixed to the inside of the door. This label was printed originally for Aaron Willard Senior, but was used by both father and son. It is common to find this label that was altered by Aaron Junior by simply penning in “Jr.”. The door also conceals the original red painted tin can weights and brass capped pendulum with wood rod. The movement has recently been serviced and is in excellent running order.
The waist transitions to the base section with another broad flared molding. The base has a panel similar to the pendulum door with a mahogany cross-banded edge around a vigorously grained central panel. The base terminates with a small bead molding and rests on flared French feet joined by a shaped apron.
The several illustrated examples that accompany this document emphasize the attribution of Thomas Seymour as the case maker. A variety of case styles were produced within this small community of Boston clockmakers, but certain distinctive attributes are associated only with the Seymour’s shop. The formal case of large size, consistent proportions and exotic wood selections are quickly recognizable attributes of Seymour cases.
John [1738-1818] and his son Thomas [1771-1848] worked successfully together through the first decade of the 19th century but by the early years of the second decade John, now in his seventies, had mostly retired. Thomas continued his cabinetwork, transitioning from the highly adorned, contrasting inlays of the Federal styles, to the more austere treatments associated with the Regency era. This clock exhibits the influence of this later style, emphasizing the beauty of wood grain in the exuberant veneer selections. Based on these clear style cues, this case is attributed to Thomas Seymour. The clock was produced around 1815-20. It is also pertinent to note that during the period starting in 1820, Thomas Seymour resided in a property on Washington Street in Boston, directly between Aaron Willard Senior and Aaron Junior.
Height with center finial: 104 1/2”; Width at base: 22 ⅜”; Depth: 10 ¼”.