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image L66

Zacharie-Nicholas-Amé-Joseph Raingo (1775 - 1847), maker

An 'orrery' or 'astronomical' clock in an amboyna wood case with ormolu mounts, French, c.1800

Height (over dome): 86.5cm
Width (plinth): 41cm
Depth (plinth): 41cm

Museum number: L66

Curatorial note

The amboyna case to this clock is in the form of a Doric rotunda, mounted in gilt bronze. The square plinth rests on gilt bronze bun feet and is inscribed ASTRONOMICAL CLOCK/BY RAINGO À PARIS c.1800. The circular base is banded by a flowered ribbon trellis supporting four tapered columns with flower-wreathed torus mouldings and there is corresponding decoration on the bezel of the silvered dial, which is signed RAINGO À PARIS, with painted Roman chapters and inner concentric day of week ring with corresponding deity, indicated by a double arrow-head steel hand, the time indicated with Breguet-style hands, the movement with twin spring barrels, dead beat escapement with gridiron pendulum suspended directly behind the dial, countwheel strike on bell on the backplate, the cornice above surmounted by a band of gilt-metal Zodiac bas-relief tablets encircling the mechanical tellurium with indirect drive from the clock movement or with optional manual facility via crank handle, the tellurium rotating anti-clockwise and demonstrating the motions of the earth and the moon in relation to the sun, with horizontal bisextile dial, with independent spring barrel wound through the silvered dial, the tellurium fulfilling the following functions:
1. Days of the month and month of the year
2. Position of the sun in the Ecliptic
3. The bisextile (leap year) cycle
4. The age and phase of the moon
5. The sidereal period of the moon
6. Solar time
The earth with coloured paper gores, the sun made of gilt-brass and the moon in silvered and blued brass.

The clock is displayed under the orignal thin glass dome. The plinth was originally designed to house a musical movement - a tune would have played when this was wound up with a separate handle.

The orrery is a mechanical instrument for portraying the relative motions of the Sun, Moon and Earth, sometimes with the planets also. They are shown in a heliocentric system. The first known English example was made by George Graham (1675-1751) in around 1705 and was jointly signed by him and by Thomas Tompion (1639-1713). The instrument maker John Rowley (1668-1728) subsequently copied Graham's machine for Prince Eugene of Savoy. Rowley was then commissioned to make another copy for his patron, Charles Boyle, 4th Earl of Orrery (1674-1731). It is believed that the essayist Sir Richard Steele suggested that it should thereafter be called an orrery, in honour of the Earl. Four examples of Rowley's orreries are in the Museum of the History of Science, Oxford.

Zacharie Joseph Raingo was born in Mons. He was living in Tournai in 1806 before moving to Gand in 1810 and shortly afterwards to Paris, where he is recorded as living at first in rue de Cléry and then in 1815 in rue Saint-Sébastien. He is recorded as having the title of Horloger-Mécanicien to the duc de Chartres by 1823 and then in February 1824 that of Horloger-Mécanicien du Garde-Meuble de la Couronne.

In 1804 Raingo presented his first horloge à sphère mouvante to a M.de Champagny. In 1810 he applied for a brevet for his design. The drawing attached to this shows an ormolu orrery clock on a pedestal, of rotunda form but with caryatid bust columns. This design was quickly superseded by a clock with mahogany columns. Raingo’s lengthy description of this latter clock is published in Annales de l'Industrie française et étrangère, volume X (1823) in which he singled out among distinguished owners of the model the Duc d’Orléans and the Minister of the Interior, the Comte de Corbière. A Raingo orrery is illustrated in Ackermann's Repository, issue III, May 1824 and is described as 'forming a very useful and tasteful ornament for the drawing room or library'.

Around thirty Raingo orrery clocks exist and a number of different materials were used for the cases: amboyna, mahogany, gilt bronze and mother-of-pearl. Not all examples have the addition of the music work in the base although it is clear from holes in the base that this one did once contain a musical box.2 The Soane clock closely resembles the example in the Royal Collection at Windsor, which was purchased from Raingo by George IV in 1824 for three hundred guineas.3

Soane refers to this clock in his Description in rather understated terms as ‘a clock, formerly belonging to His Royal Highness the late Duke of York’ on the pier table at the south end of his Library. It seems likely that the royal provenance was of greatest significance to him, rather than the spectacular nature of the instrument. It does not appear that Soane and the Duke had close dealings with one another, but they had certainly met and the committee formed in 1827 for the purpose of erecting a monument to the Duke turned to Soane for designs. He presented two schemes, one of which, for a Monopteral Temple ‘proposed to be erected in the Enclosure in St. James's Park in front of the Horse Guards,’ was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1828. Neither was executed.4

Although Soane’s word on the provenance of this clock should not be doubted (he published it just a couple of years after the acquisition, in his 1830 Description) and the Duke of York certainly owned a number of expensive French clocks, the Raingo does not appear in the catalogues of the Duke's posthumous sales, the first of which took place on 12-24 February 1827, a few days before Soane’s purchase. Nor is it absolutely certain that the clock referred to in Dumergue’s letter (see provenance) is this one, although it seems likely. The ‘Mr. Fatton’ referred to in the letter, and who was named as its maker by Soane, was Frederick Louis Fatton of New Bond Street, who himself patented an astronomical clock and watch in 1822. The link between Fatton and Demergue was the great Swiss-French watchmaker Abraham Louis Breguet (1747-1823) of Paris, by whom Fatton had been trained. Fatton was apparently also of Swiss origin and besides describing himself on his own clocks as “élève de Breguet”,5 he was sometimes referred to as Breguet's nephew. He came to London after the Napoleonic wars and acted as agent for Breguet’s clocks and watches. The other man was Charles John Dumergue (d. 1852), nephew of Charles Francis Dumergue (d. 1814), a Frenchman who had been surgeon-dentist to the Royal Family, but it is more relevant in this context that he had preceded Fatton as Breguet’s main London agent, arranging the sale of several Breguet pieces to the Prince of Wales in particular. His nephew succeeded him as the Royal dentist but probably not as Breguet’s agent, once Fatton had arrived in London by 1817.

We are grateful to Christie's, Jonathan Marsden (Director of the Royal Collection Trust) and Roger Smith for their help with this entry.

1 SM Archive, box of ‘Papers relating to purchases’ put together by Walter Spiers, sheet 14. Undated letter from C.[?Charles] Dumerque to John Soane: ‘Mr. Fatton the bearer of this is the Proprietor of the Beautiful Clock which I rejoice to say your well known good Taste & Judgement induced you to purchase yesterday and I sincerely rejoice it has fallen into the hands of a Gentleman who is so capable of appreciating its merits. Mr. Fatton is / Nephew of the Celebrated / Briquet well known to the World’. The letter is endorsed in Soane’s hand ‘respecting a Clock made by Mr Fatton’. SM Archive Soane Journal 6, f.541 records 27 February 1827 ‘Paid Mr Fatten for clock £75.0.0’. The identity of C. Dumerque remains mysterious although Jonathan Marsden discovered (2008) that a Charles Dumerque held the following office in the Royal Household: ‘Surgeon Extraordinary and Surgeon Dentist 21 May 1820 (LC 3/69, p.40). From ‘Index of officers: D’, Office-Holders in Modern Britain: Volume 11 (revised): Court Officers, 1660-1837 (2006), pp. 912-956.
2 Catherine Scantlebury of Christie’s has pointed out that the veneer on the left-hand side of the base of the Soane clock seems ill-matched to the rest of the veneer. This section may have been replaced and this might explain the absence of any evidence of the plate through which the small levers which controlled the musical box would have projected. From the 1823 description it is clear that the musical movement was of a pin-barrel type.
3 Royal Collection Inventory Number 30002. The Duke of Buckingham also bought an orrery clock from Raingo for 300 guineas. It was included in Christie’s sale of the contents of Stowe in 1848, lot 885. A memorandum by A.T. Bolton in the Soane Archive (Spiers box; dated 12 April 1937) suggests that Raingo supplied identical clocks to five of the sons of George III, but there is no evidence to support this. No such clock, for example, appears among the 137 lots in the sale of the outstanding collection of clocks belonging to the Duke of Sussex, conducted by Christies’s on 4 July 1843.
4 The Duke of York’s column on the North side of the Mall, designed by B.D. Wyatt, was completed in 1834.
5 G.H. Baillie et al., eds, Britten’s Old Clocks and Watches and their Makers, London, 1956, p. 377. In the same box as the letter cited at note 74 is a receipt in George Bailey’s hand: ‘Fatton 75 Astron. Clock.’ The association of this purchase with the Raingo dates from at least 1869 when the entry ‘York, Duke of. Clock Fatton 27 Feb 1827 £75’ appears in the ‘Cost and Original Proprietors index’ in the SM Archive.

Provenance help-art-provenance

Frederick, Duke of York (1763-1827); purchased by John Soane from a Mr. Fatton on 27 February 1827 for £75. Soane Museum Archive, box of ‘Papers relating to purchases’ put together by Walter Spiers, sheet 14, is an undated letter from C .[Charles] Dumergue to John Soane: Mr. Fatton the bearer of this is the Proprietor of the Beautiful Clock which I rejoice to say your well known good Taste & Judgement induced you to purchase yesterday and I sincerely rejoice it has fallen into the hands of a Gentleman who is so capable of appreciating its merits. Mr. Fatton is / Nephew of the Celebrated / Briquet [sic = Breguet] well known to the World. The letter is endorsed in Soane’s hand ‘respecting a Clock made by Mr Fatton’. SM Archive Soane Journal 6, f.541 records 27 February 1827 ‘Paid Mr Fatten [sic] for clock £75.0.0’.1

Literature

J. Soane Description of the Residence of John Soane, Architect, London, 1830, p. 21
J. Soane Description of the Residence of John Soane, Architect, London, 1835, p. 6
P. Thornton and H. Dorey, A Miscellany of Objects from Sir John Soane’s Museum, London, 1992, p.14


If you have any further information about this object, please contact us: worksofart@soane.org.uk