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Clock with a Writing Figure

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Period: 18th century
Medium: gilded copper
Date: 1770
Origin: England
Artist(s): Timothy Williamson

Dimensions: height: 231 cm, stand diameter: 77 × 77 cm

Four carved wooden legs support a coffee table on which rests a gilded four-story copper tower. In a pavilion on the top level, two dancing figures are holding a closed scroll. When the clock strikes, they move apart so that the scroll is opened. The four characters on it read "[may you enjoy] boundless longevity" (wanshou wujiang). On the second floor from the top a musician strikes a bell every three hours to give the correct time at three o'clock, six o'clock, nine o'clock and twelve o'clock. The dial plate is designed as the third floor.   
  The most complex and dramatic part of this clock is the mechanical gentleman on the lowest floor who can write eight Chinese characters on paper. The robot is dressed as a European gentleman. Half-kneeling, he is poised in writing position and rests his left hand on the desk. When the mechanical device is activated, the robot writes characters meaning that others countries all worship China and send emissaries to pay homage to the Chinese emperor. He also moves his head in imitation of human writing gestures.    
  Separate from the mechanical device of the clock, this mechanical man is powered by another clockwork. Consisting of three round wheels with various teeth, the mechanism is hidden under the stand of the tower. They are made to control the movement of the brush. Two control the robot's horizontal movements, while another one causes the robot to move its hand up and down. 
  This large clock with complicated mechanisms was made especially for the Qing court by the Williamsons, a famous British clock family.

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