- Museum number
Lantern clock; steel movement; single foliot; rope driven; fixed lacquer dial with revolving hand; engraved silvered brass panels to case; European strike; pyramid stand; inlaid in mother-of-pearl with inscription and birds and flowering branches on black lacquer ground.
- Production date
Diameter: 55 centimetres (Base of stand)
Height: 1.44 metres (overall)
Width: 55 centimetres (base of stand)
- Curator's comments
- Text from 'Clocks', by David Thompson, London, 2004, p. 142.
Early Japanese stand/lantern clock
Japan, seventeenth/eighteenth century
Base: height 97 cm, width 55.5 cm, depth 55.5 cm
Clock: height 43.5 cm, width 16.5 cm, depth 16.5 cm
In 1549 Francis Xavier, a Portuguese Jesuit missionary, arrived at Kagoshima and the following year applied to the local governor for permission to establish a Jesuit mission there. To help negotiations, he presented the governor with a clock. This was followed by further gifts of clocks by other missionaries, the most famous of which was a clock made in Madrid in 1581. By the early seventeenth century, however, the activities of the missionaries were considered detrimental to Japanese culture and all were expelled, leaving the country effectively closed to western influences for more than two centuries. In the seventeenth century the Japanese began making their own clocks, at first in imitation of sixteenth-century European chamber clocks, but soon a style developed which was exclusively Japanese. Such clocks remained fashionable until the end of the rule of the Tokugawa Shogun in 1866. In 1873, following the opening up of trade with western Europe, the system of twenty-four equal hours beginning at midnight was adopted.
Until 1873, time in Japan was measured in unequal hours with the day divided into periods of daylight and darkness, and each of these periods divided into six equal parts called toki. Thus, in winter, the daylight 'hours' would be short and the darkness 'hours' long and vice versa in summer. The day began at dusk and on just two days of the year, at the vernal and autumnal equinoxes, the day and night 'hours' would be the same and equal to two European hours. At all other times the length of the hours would gradually change through the year. Each toki was also assigned a zodiac in the sequence, horse 9 (midday) followed by sheep 8, monkey 7, cock 6 (sunset), dog 5, wild boar 4, rat 9 (midnight), ox 8, tiger 7, hare 6 (sunrise), dragon 5 and snake 4.
This clock, made in about 1700, has an oscillating foliot with adjustable weights. Called Yagura-Dokei, meaning tower clocks, they still used the standard 1-12 blows on the bell to indicate the passing hours which would have meant nothing in Japan at the time where the hours were numbered 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, twice. Clearly, in order for these clocks to indicate unequal hours in any way correctly, the rate of the clock would have to be adjusted by moving the weights on the foliot, not only according to the time of year but also at sunrise and sunset on a daily basis. Such constant alteration was clearly not practical and it is likely that in feudal Japan in the seventeenth century clocks were simply owned as expensive curiosities rather than as instruments for measuring time. An interesting feature is the four chrysanthemum flowers on the front which suggest that the clock was originally an imperial piece.
The clock stands on a rare black lacquered pyramidal base inlaid with mother-of-pearl decoration incorporating a Chinese poem. 'In place of an expected pot, this present instrument will give the hour & division, correctly presenting heaven's word.' It is known that this base, although contemporary with the clock, was married to it by J. Drummond Robertson in the 1930s.
Drummond Robertson Collection
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
2000 26 Mar-24 Sep, London, BM, Japanese Galleries, 'Japan Time'
2006 Oct 13-, BM Japanese Galleries, 'Japan from prehistory to the present'
2020 Feb- 1 Nov, London, Victoria and Albert Museum, Kimono Fashion
- Acquisition date
- Acquisition notes
- The Ilbert Collection of clocks, prints and other related material was destined to be sold at Christie's auction house on 6th-7th November 1958. As a result of the generous donation of funds by Gilbert Edgar CBE the sale was cancelled and the material purchased privately from the beneficiaries of the Ilbert Estate.NL1Ilbert's watches were then acquired with further funds from Gilbert Edgar CBE, public donations and government funds. These were then registered in the series 1958,1201.
- Britain, Europe and Prehistory
- Registration number
- Additional IDs
Previous owner/ex-collection number: CAI.2165 (Ilbert Collection)