Drexel’s Rittenhouse

The David  Rittenhouse astronomical and musical clock now in the collection of Drexel University in West Philadelphia has been called the “Most Important Clock in America”. It is a stunning achievement. The gearing calculations would have been difficult if Rittenhouse had access to modern computing technologies. That this work was done by hand calculation in 1770 is beyond belief to use mere mortals. The case commissioned to house it is an extraordinary achievement in design, woodworking, and carving as well. The Drexel Collection, free and open to the public, is well worth a visit. The clock and case can be seen in the Anthony J. Drexel Picture Gallery on the 3rd floor in the beautiful 3141 Chesnut Street main building. Recalling how similar the design and execution of the ornaments on the clock case are to the Batsto Furnace stove plate, I pulled out a set of photographs I made while attended the removal of the movement for cleaning and repair in 2005. If you can’t make it to Philadelphia or Drexel University, this can be the next best thing for now. All images will open in a new window when clicked. I will add images of the movement in a later post.

Go Dragons.

maxresdefault

cartouche

Cartouche

foliate

foliate

Foliate scroll.

lower

scroll

cartouche

car.

detail

side

Hood spandrel applique

back

back

flower

Flower and ribbon carving on the lower moulding of the hood.

gadroon

Complex gadrooning on the lower waist moulding.

base

Base with applique.

detail

Base applique detail.

feet

The case is over-size and the movement and weights are much heavier than a typical eight-day clock. Beefed-up glue blocks can be seen behind the foot facings.

 

2 thoughts on “Drexel’s Rittenhouse

  1. Thanks so much for this, Chris. It’s always nice to get photos of good carving for study. I look forward to the next installment.

    Kirk

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