Jewels of Time: Watches from the Proctor Collection

August 26 - December 31, 2017

The aesthetic brilliance and exquisite craftsmanship of beautifully ornamented historical timepieces will featured in the exhibition Jewels of Time: Watches from the Proctor Collection.

Jewels of Time will explore watches as decorative arts and jewelry. The exhibition will showcase nearly 100 skillfully crafted and visually appealing European watches drawn from a larger collection assembled in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries by Thomas R. Proctor (1844-1920) and Frederick T. Proctor (1856-1929) of Utica, New York, two of the Institute's founders. Together, the brothers formed one of the largest and most important watch collections in the United States. Comprising three hundred European and American timepieces dating from the late-sixteenth through the early-twentieth centuries, the collection has the added distinction that it remains intact.

When traveling in Europe and the United States, the Proctor brothers scoured auctions and sought out dealers to acquire the best pieces. Both brothers sought to acquire the finest watches available to assemble an aesthetically pleasing collection that also spanned the chronological and geographic breadth of the history of watchmaking.

Each watch is a work of art intended to be worn as a jeweled symbol of prestige. The exhibition will examine the collection from this perspective and explore the decorative techniques used in the creation of these small artworks. Jewels of Time will also provide an overview of three hundred years of timekeeping, as watches evolved from jewelry and novelty items to precision instruments.

The exhibition will feature important examples of all the decorative techniques used in watchmaking. Gold and silver repoussé work, jewel-encrusted cases, and fine enamel paintings will be highlighted in Jewels of Time. The intricate scenes depicted on gold watchcases illustrate the height of European metalsmithing techniques. The exquisite enamel watches feature highly detailed miniature portraits and still lifes framed in pearls. Semi-precious stones were a favored ornamental element and examples in Jewels in Time range from diamond highlights on a bug-form watch to a jewel-encrusted watchcase and chatelaine. The collection also includes Renaissance-style watches with rock crystal cases, watches made for the Turkish and Chinese markets, and clever automatons with intricately moving figures. Novelty watches vary from an enameled mandolin to a tulip to a miniature silver skull with a watch enclosed within its jaw.

The exhibition will be on view in the Museum’s galleries in Fountain Elms, once home to the Williams-Proctor family.

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New York State Council on the Arts with the support of
Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.

New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.