Musically Timed: Continental Clock Makers and their Markets

French Empire Gilt Ormolu Clock. Clockmaker, François Alibert, Paris, France, first half 19th century. Musical Movement, M. Bordier, Geneva, Switzerland, c. 1810. The Murtogh D. Guinness Collection, Morris Museum. 2003.18.28a-c.

MORRIS COUNTY  — Visitors to the Morris Museum can learn about how clock makers incorporated music and animation into their artworks and added a wide range of music to their everyday lives with the exhibit “Musically Timed: Continental Clock Makers and their Markets.” Morris Museum is located at 6 Normandy Heights Road.

The collection, which is on display until Sunday, March 26, traces the circulation of mechanical instruments from shop to store, home to auction, and collection to the museum.

This exhibition features a variety of musical clocks, animated tableaux vivants from Paris, musical picture clocks from Vienna, and 18th Century mechanical singing birds from Switzerland. Musically Timed was made possible by loans from gracious private collectors, augmented by pieces from the museum’s Guinness Viewable Storage vault.

Throughout the 18th and early 19th Centuries, keeping time and making music were increasingly paired attributes for a wide variety of exotic and even fantastic decorative artworks for the homes of the wealthy.

Towards the end of this period, musical picture clocks, animated tableaux, and Black Forest Trumpeter clocks were enjoyed by expanding markets fascinated by these examples of evolving and more affordable technology. These creations came from imaginative minds and the hands of numerous specialists, including mechanicians, sculptors, carvers, painters, gilders, taxidermists, miniaturists, and animators, who all came together to fabricate these masterful decorative artworks.

The animated action could unfold slowly as seemingly static paintings were set in motion. An entire village came to life at times with passing trains and boats rocking on rippling waters. Some would be manually started for personal enjoyment. In contrast, others would operate quietly by themselves for hours, waiting for visiting guests to notice on their own that the supposed static painting was actually moving.

Highlights of this exhibition are the French Empire Gilt Ormolu Clock and the captivating Singing Birds in Cage Automaton Clock. Musically Timed also includes several objects from the Museum’s Guinness Collection that are on view for the first time.

This exhibition is organized by Director of Exhibitions and Collections Anne Ricculli and Jere Ryder, conservator of the Murtogh D. Guinness Collection of Mechanical Musical Instruments and Automata at the Morris Museum.

Will and Mary Leland provide leadership support for this exhibition.