Musical Automaton: Rhinoceros Clock

Gilt bronze automaton rhinoceros clock

James Cox (ca. 1723–1800)
Musical Automaton: Rhinoceros Clock
ca. 1765–72
Gilt bronze, silver, enamel, pearls, and colored glass
Pedestal: white marble and agate
15 9/16 × 8 3/8 × 3 1/2 in. (39.5 × 21.3 × 8.9 cm)
Two enamel dials, one signed JAs Cox London
Gift of Alexis Gregory, 2021
Photo Joseph Coscia Jr.



The “rhinoceros mania” began in Europe when a rhinoceros from India named Miss Clara was brought by the Dutch East India Company to Rotterdam in 1741 and exhibited in several cities until her death in London in 1758. Standing on a white marble pedestal and carrying a musical clock on its back, this rhinoceros figure is modeled after a celebrated print by Albrecht Dürer (1471–1528). The animal supports a small edifice that includes a clock and jeweled flowers. The chime mechanism, concealed on the back of the rhinoceros, strikes every half hour and can play two different tunes. The clock and its pendant may have been part of a more complex automaton that is described in Cox’s catalogue in 1774.

  282 — (1) Curator's Reflection (English) (2) Curator's Reflection (French)
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