Literature: Tardy, “Les Plus Belles Pendules Françaises”, 1994, p. 339, showing two earlier Raingo orrery clocks with caryatids, one in the Musée d’Art et d’Histoire, Brussels; and pp. 340-341, illustrating similar orrery clocks by Antide Janvier and Raingo, one signed by both in the Musée d’Horlogerie, La Chaux-de-Fonds. Cedric Jagger, “Royal Clocks”, 1983, pp. 168-170, pls. 229-231, illustrating an almost identical clock in the British Royal Collection, a detail and as illustrated in the Pictorial Inventory. Pierre Kjellberg, “Encyclopédie de la Pendule Française du Moyen Age au XXe Siècle”, 1997, p. 376, pl. A, illustrating a very similar Raingo clock.
A very fine Empire gilt bronze mounted amboyna orrery clock with glass dome by Raingo and signed on the white enamel dial by the retailer Guiton à Paris. The dial with Roman numerals and inner names and symbols of the days of the week and a pair of blued steel hands for the hours and pointer for the calendar indications. The clock movement of eight day duration, striking on the hour and half hours, with outside count wheel, with a fine compensated grid iron pendulum. The fine gilt bronze mounted amboyna veneered case with main dial and movement suspended between four circular pillars surmounted by an entablature with an outer ring with gilt bronze signs of the zodiac and inner silvered ring indicating the days and names of the month and the four year cycle, the orrery of four year duration consisting of rotating spheres representing the sun, earth and moon, with an ivory handle below for manual operation, the pillars supported on a circular trellis-cast gilt bronze base
Paris, date circa 1815
Height 70 cm, diameter 36 cm.
While Zacharie-Nicholas-Amé-Joseph Raingo (b. circa 1780) made a number of fine domestic clocks, he is best known as the most important nineteenth century makers of orrery clocks. This clock looks quite different from other astronomical timepieces, with the clock mounted by a mechanism of rotating spheres designed to indicate the relative sizes, positions and movements of the earth, moon and sun. Each of Raingo’s orrery clocks followed a similar design having a precision clock below the orrery, the latter as here being driven by the clock but also having its own supporting power for the four year duration. In addition a handle can be employed for independent manual operation of the planetary spheres. As here all Raingo’s models were veneered with the finest woods, either amboyna or mahogany and ornamented with sumptuous gilt bronze mounts.
Born in Mons in Belgium, Raingo moved to Tournai in 1806; about four years later he went to Ghent and soon after settled in Paris where he rapidly gained repute based in rue de Cléry. His impressive clientele included the duc de Chartres who in 1823 appointed him as his Horloger Mécanicien while the following year Raingo became Horloger Mécanicien du Garde-Meuble de la Couronne. In June 1810 Raingo took out a patent for his orrery design aimed to “teach astronomical elements and driven by a clock but incorporating its own auxiliary power”. Five years later he took out a further patent and published his findings in 1823, under the title: “Description of a clock with moving spheres”. A number of other eminent French makers including Raingo’s former tutor, Antide Janvier (1751-1835) produced such pieces, but none were considered as fine. Janvier clearly recognized his pupil’s talent and later supplied Raingo with movements for some of his more complex astronomical clocks, which explains why some of Raingo’s earlier models also bear Janvier’s name. A man of ingenious talents, Raingo was also one of the first makers of clock paintings. These usually showed a landscape with either a church or castle tower into which was fitted a clock with carillon movement striking the hours and quarters. Some were also fitted with what Raingo termed a ‘lointain’, which simulated the sound of music in the far distance.
Between 1826 and 1828 Raingo went into partnership with one or more of his brothers and thereafter the firm was known as Raingo Frères, taking out patents in 1829 for special striking, special cases, a new pendulum suspension and a new escapement. By this date Raingo Frères was based at Vieille du Temple, between 1840 and 1850 it was established in the rue de Saintonge and was still Paris based when it exhibited at the International Exhibition, London, 1862.
Intended for domestic use, Raingo’s orrery clocks could only be afforded by the seriously wealthy student of astronomy and science, one of whom was King George IV of England who in 1824 purchased four Raingo orrery clocks for his brothers for the substantial sum of 300 guineas a piece (one of which is housed at Windsor Castle and another given to Frederick Duke of York is in the Sir John Soane Museum, London). In total about twenty-five Raingo clocks are known today of which only about ten were signed by the maker. Two of Raingo’s orreries were ordered by Baron de Gaesbeek for the Sultan of Turkey of which one is preserved at the Musée du Cinquantenaire in Brussels. Others in public collections include those in the Musée des Arts et Métiers in Paris (which was finished by Paul Garnier), the Musée de Besançon, the Royal Collection Madrid, Museo Poldi Pezzoli in Milan, the Musée de l’Horlogerie, Besançon; the Royal Collection, Madrid; Glasgow Art Gallery and the London Science Museum. Further Raingo orreries include those formerly in the National Time Museum Chicago as well as Lord Harris and Major Chamberlain’s collections.