Jonathan Peacock, Trustee of The Bowes Museum continues the remarkable story of John Joseph Merlin. The 250th anniversary of his most famous creation - and the Bowes Museum’s most treasured object - the Silver Swan, is approaching, and it is high time he was given the acknowledgement he deserves.
Born in Belgium, John Joseph Merlin came to England in 1760, and soon proved himself an inventor and showman of genius. None has ever matched the range and variety of his talents as mechanic, horologist, musician, performer, innovator and well-connected member of the Age of Enlightenment.
He regularly socialised with the luminaries of the period, including Dr Johnson, Dr Burney and his daughter Fanny, the composer CPE Bach and the artist Thomas Gainsborough. He even performed alongside some of the most famous actors and celebrities of day, such as John Philip Kemble and Mrs Jordan, and in the presence, indeed, of most of the nobility, from the Prince of Wales down. Find more about the Silver Swan here.