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What to look for when buying an antique Swedish Mora Clock


Antique Swedish Mora clocks have been gaining in popularity both in the UK and in the US for many years. Their shape is unique only to Sweden and no other Nordic country has anything approaching the same style or diversity in shapes and colours that exists in Sweden.


A mini cottage industry

The Swedish Mora Clock was crafted in the 18th and 19th century in Sweden and their unusual style and soft colours appeal to both home owners and antique collectors alike.


History

A small town in the Darlana Province of Sweden called Mora is reported to be the original source of the Swedish Mora Clock. During the 18th century this town suffered a period of severe drought causing many of the working males in the region to journey to larger towns such as Stockholm in search of work. These largely agricultural workers were therefore required to learn new skills. An industry that at that time was growing was clock-making and therefore a number of farm workers reskilled as basic clockmakers.

Consequently the typical Mora Clock can be found with a more basic mechanism to those of the finer clocks destined for the wealthier Swedish families.


The Making of a Mora Clock

A single Mora Clock was typically made by several manufacturers. One manufacturer would make the mechanism for the clock, another would paint the face of the clock and a third would make the body of the clock. These carpenters would typically carve the clock from local wood, generally Scandinavian pine wood, into which the mechanism would be fitted.

Quite often the clocks would be custom painted by a local painter to the owner’s particular tastes. At the height of their production over 1,000 clocks were being made in this region each year. However the industry stopped almost as fast as it had started when cheaper and possibly more reliable US clocks were imported into Sweden and the demand for the Mora clock therefore declined rapidly.


The Mora Clock from generation to generation

The Mora clock in Sweden was a measure of counting out the days in the life of a house and therefore the clock was generally passed down from generation to generation. Each new generation would typically repaint the clock as it entered a new household and often owner’s initials were marked inside the body of the clock with the date the clock was ‘acquired’. This refurbishment of the clock explains why so many current examples have multiple layers of paint on their body.



Design of the Mora Clock

In contrast to a male clock which is generally straight such as for example a Danish Bornholm clock, the Swedish Mora clock was based around the figure of 8 or more generally the female curvy form.

Mora clocks that were influenced more by the Gustavian period would tend to be lighter and more refined whilst those that had an earlier Rococo influence tended to be sturdier and show greater roundness.

Regional difference also existed: the generally poorer North of Sweden tended to make much thinner clocks though taller whilst in the South of Sweden the clocks were more fuller figured and rounded with greater curves.

In addition to the variety of shapes of Mora clocks that exist an equal array of variety exists with the painted patterns on the clocks. These include chinoiserie clocks where Chinese style paintings would be found on the clocks reflecting the then popularity in this style.
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Other styles of Mora clocks were much closer to the style of Sweden and included traditional Swedish style folk painting of patterns on the clocks of floral style shapes.

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Despite the folk style floral paintings a good number of Mora clocks used delicately painted flowers as a way to personalise the Mora clock:

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In addition to these themes if the buyer of the clock was concerned that his Mora clock might resemble that of his neighbour then there was always the option of having his clock painted in a single colour with an additional second colour as a mark of the owners identity.

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Over time many of the Mora clocks colours may have faded and rather than the clock suffer from repeated overpainting this style of worn Mora clock is very much in demand as the Mora clock is much closer to its original style than those that were made in the 18th century and repeatedly overpainted in the 19th century and thereby lost their uniqueness.

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Consequently the endless variety of different shapes, sizes and colours has made this style of clock universally appealing.


The colours and decoration of Mora Clocks

Whilst Swedish furniture from this period tends to be painted in light colours to enhance or reflect the limited light during the darker winter months then so too are the clocks painted in different lighter shades. The clocks were often embellished with gold detailing to add further refinement to these clocks. Glass, that was a rare commodity during this period, would be used for the finest Mora Clocks and from time to time early examples of this glass, still with micro air bubbles in the glass can be found.


The marriage Clock

Traditionally the Mora clock would be given to the bride as a wedding gift to grace her new home. The shape of the clock therefore reflects that it was a gift to the bride and not to the groom. In some regions such as Jamtland and Angermanland the clock took on the form of the brides dress with ornate carved decorations to reflect the detail of this wedding dress. These clocks tend to be rare and are rarely for sale today.
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Many clocks also had urns or other decorative carvings attached to the top of the clock with the more elaborate carvings reflecting the owners own view of his self-worth or stature.




The clock mechanism

The Mora clock mechanism is generally a fairly simple structure which consists of basic metal plates, wheels and tapered axels (arbors) through which the barrels are fixed. The weights drive both the striking mechanism (generally the left hand barrel) and the pendulum swing (generally the right hand barrel). These barrels themselves being wound by rotating a key through the face plate of the clock face.

Generally the clocks run for 8 days before needing to be rewound. This is usually when the weights have been fully extended on the cord on which they hang, ie they touch the floor and there in no weight to drive either the pendulum, he strike or both.




What to look for when buying a Mora Clock

Although personal taste largely dictates ie that beauty is in the eye of the beholder there are 3 main aspects of a Mora Clock that should be considered:

1.       Does it have a pleasing shape – the uniqueness of the Mora Clock is its shape. Some are tall and thin and others shorter and more curvy. Ideally the clock should be well proportioned to be considered as a buy

2.       Colour – the aesthetics of colour are important and clocks with early examples of their paint colour (or those that have been scrapped back to their original paint colour) are much prized.

3.       Workings – as a clock it should work and tell the time to a degree of accuracy. The value of the clock is as much in the working of its original mechanism as it is in the colour and shape. Mora clocks that have had their mechanisms replaced for battery operated ones hold little value.