Willard Gallery Clock 

Henry Ford Museum


Simon WillardThe gallery clock, named for its positioning in large public spaces, was designed and built by Simon Willard.  Willard, a celebrated American clockmaker, began his career in 1766 in Grafton, Massachusetts working wit his brothers, Ephraim and Aaron.  The clock features an eight day mechanism which utilized a weight powered escapement.  The clock lacked a striking mechanism and indicated time only by the iron hands and dial.  Willard often utilized the talents of woodcarver John Dogget, and this piece is believed to be one of those collaborations.


Before Treatment: Deteriorating CasingThe clock case was in unstable condition having areas of active lifting, flaking, and lost gesso and gilding overall.  The reverse glass painted panel, covering the pendulum weight had been amateurishly repaired in the past.  The paint was flaking and previously repainted areas had discolored over time. The casework and dial were disfigured by a heavy layer of grime; isolated areas of gilding had been haphazardly toned by with a resinous coating which appears to have darkened significantly.  The carved eagle finial was unstable; both “wings” were split and the proper left wing was loose and misaligned during an earlier repair.


During Treatment: Cleaning the Clock FaceUpon receipt, the clock was partially disassembled to facilitate treatment. All surfaces were “dry” cleaned using soft brushes and controlled vacuuming. All areas of loose and lifting gesso and paint were consolidated and set down using small brushes and micro spatulas. Old repairs, causing misalignment of the eagle’s wing were carefully reversed and rejoined using hot hide glue.  Grime laden surfaces and darkened non-original coatings were cleaned and / or reduced using both aqueous and solvent based gels.  Areas of lost gesso were filled and in-gilded to blend with the surrounding original surfaces. The reverse glass panel was consolidated using a reversible synthetic resin and areas of discolored repainting or repairs were mechanically removed using surgical scalpels and dissecting needles.  Losses were inpainted or in-gilded, as required, to complete the original design and the panel was reinstalled using original or existing hardware.  The clock was then prepared and packed for transportation to The Henry Ford (museum).

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