Antique Swedish furniture created in the 18th and 19th century has been gaining in popularity in both the United States and abroad for quite some time. The pale colors and pared down style have, in addition to their rich history, a modernity that appeals to the eye of both decorators and collectors. The Swedish Mora clock is perhaps one of the most iconic and identifiable elements of this style and is often the first addition to a collection of Swedish Antiques.
During the 18th century the town of Mora in the province of Darlana was hit by several years of drought. Thousands of people fled their homes and went south to Stockholm and southern Sweden. Eventually many of these immigrants returned to their homelands and brought with them knowledge of farming techniques and a new skill, clock making. Krang Anders Andersson, born in Ostnor in 1727, began the tradition of clock making in Mora which continued well into the 19th century and became an important cottage industry. The parts of the clock, the movement, bells, hands, face, pendulum, and weights, were made by separate manufacturers. The wooden cases, were often ordered by the owners from carpenters far and wide and only then did the pieces come together into the finished clock. This accounts for the wide variety of antique clocks that we still see today. At the height of production over 1000 clocks were being made each year. In Sweden, the clock is a symbol of the measure of our lifespan counting out the days in the life of the house. It some Swedish familes it was a tradition, on Sunday morning, for everyone to gather together while the clock was wound and readied for the week ahead.
THE MORA CLOCK DESIGN
The Mora clocks were made in a wide variety of shapes all based around the figure eight or rounded female form. Some showed a rococo influence and were sturdier and taller in the heavier rococo style. Others were typically Gustavian, more elegant and lighter in proportion. Clocks made in the north of Sweden were very thin and tall while others from the south had fatter tummies and exaggerated curves. The variations in shapes and sizes, makes these clocks endlessly unique and appealing. Each one bears the personality of the creator or the owner who might have commissioned it.
MORA CLOCK COLORS AND DECORATION
Just as much of the 18th and 19th century Swedish furniture was painted, the Mora Clocks echoed this aesthetic and were often finished in lighter colors and embellished with gold details to reflect the light and brighten rooms during the long dark Swedish winters. Clocks were traditionally given as a present to the bride on her wedding day. In some provinces such as Jamtland and Angermanland the decorations on these bridal clocks were very elaborate. Each clock might have wonderful carvings on the body and a bonnet adorned with carved flowers and leaves resembling a bridal crown. Many clocks also had urns, fans and decorative elements on the top of the bonnet that were perhaps requested by the owner and added to their stature and elegance. Roosters were another element symbolizing the beginning of the day.
There is a story about an English ship with a cargo of English and French clocks that capsized on the Swedish coast. The mechanisms of these clocks were saved and taken as models, but much simplified, for the cottage industries making primitive clocks in the province of Dalarna. It is very interesting to note the very crude hand made plates and wheels in the Mora clocks and the unusual aspect of tapered arbors. The strike mechanism is “rack and snail” and the pendulum has a very light bob as compared to the typically heavier ones in English clocks. The mechanism is run by heavy weights and wound with a key. The tall case Mora clocks usually have an 8 day 2 train movement and function quite well once they have been cleaned, serviced and leveled in their final location. They often strike on both the hour and half hour and have a wonderful variety of bell sounds.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR WHEN BUYING A SWEDISH MORA CLOCK
At Dawn Hill Antiques, we have sold many Swedish clocks over the years. In my mind, it is important to try to find a clock that retains traces of the original paint. The colors of these clocks are more luminous and beautiful. You might be lucky enough to find one that has not been touched, on the other hand, many clocks have been painstakingly dryscraped by hand to their original color and these can be just as beautiful. Clocks that have been recently repainted, often have a dull bland color and are far less appealing and certainly lower in value. Be sure the clock has all the elements needed to make it run, the pendulum, weights and works. At Dawn Hill Antiques, all our clocks are serviced by a professional clockmaker and are offered in working condition. When the clock is delivered to your home you will probably need to have a professional set it up and level it in order for it to work properly.