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The Shah of Persia’s Elephant Automaton Clock
A George III paste-set ormolu musical automaton clock
c. 1780 signed by Peter Torckler
Height: 102 centimetres
Estimated price: £1-2 million


A magnificent automated clock rendered in the form of an Asian elephant with a canopied howdah and pineapple-topped pagoda is a highlight of the forthcoming Treasures Sale.

Formerly in the collection of Nasir al-Din Shah, the mechanical movements of this intriguing piece include a rotating trunk, flapping ears, swishing tail and rolling eyes, all accompanied by six musical modes.

This unusually large piece is an example of the inventive objects produced in London for the Eastern markets in the second half of the 18th century. During the latter part of the 18th century there developed a trade in novelty items, often referred to as ‘Sing-Song’, that were exported by the East India Company into Canton.

The maker of this clock was Peter Torckler who was based in London and Calcutta during the late 18th century where he dealt in goods imported from China. The clock is believed to have been acquired by Nasir al-Din Shah in the late 19th century following a visit to England where he came across a bejewelled mechanical clock belonging to Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild at Waddesdon Manor. On his return the Shah commissioned an agent to source a similar clock for his own collection and amusement.

First published in the Adbuzzzz Section of The DAWN National Weekend Advertiser on June 17, 2012.