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Musical automata were particularly admired in the late 18th century. Most of these exotic time-pieces, where the measurement of time was only one feature of the item, were made for the eastern market, principally Turkey, China and India. This musical clock by William Carpenter offered a choice of six tunes - two dances, two jigs, a song and a march.

The figures in 18th century costume are mounted on the clock hold bells, whilst the standing figures chime the quarters and strike the hours; the seated figures play the tunes on bells below their feet.

William Carpenter worked in Soho from about 1770 until 1805. He specialised in musical automatic clocks and examples of his work are to be found in Chinese museums.

Watch and listen to the video below as the musical automaton clock from the British Galleries goes through its performance.

View transcript of video

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