Astronomical table clock

German, Augsburg

Not on view

This triad of exceptional renaissance clocks, along with several other extraordinary timepieces, entered the Metropolitan Museum’s collection as part of the transformative gift of J. Pierpont Morgan.[3] Although watches were clearly Morgan’s great passion and formed the majority of the donation (17.190.747; 17.190.639; 17.190.634a–d), a guidebook of 1914 remarks, “this collection gives the student a complete illustration not only of the gradual and steady progress of horological art, but also of the beauty of some of the finest examples of it in existence.” [4]

The perfection and refinement of time-measuring devices with additional indications and references to the celestial order were the undisputable innovation and artistic accomplishment of South German clockmakers of the Renaissance. Accordingly, intriguing clocks were a necessary part of the Kunstkammer (see pp. 196–99 in this volume). The gilded case of the Augsburg clock of 1568 (17.190.634a–d) is not only embellished with a multitude of engraved and applied ornaments and mythological figures but also indicates with its various auxiliary dials a complex variety of calendrical and astronomical data.[5] The Augsburg clockmaker Jeremias Metzger likely made this and several other, stylistically similar pieces, of which one in the Kunsthistori sches Museum, Vienna, is signed and marked “im.” [6] Princely themes of hunting—depicted within the openwork of the dome—and the allegorical figures that weave around the dials reflect the well-rounded education of the aristocratic owner. The clockmaker Caspar Behaim, who is recorded in Vienna between 1573 and 1584, also acted as an art agent, and he sold the clock during that time.

The name mirror clock derives from this form’s resemblance to a Renaissance looking glass (17.190.639); the term monstrance clock is prevalent in inventories and early horological scholarship, and refers to the receptacle for the consecrated Host. Such associations render early clocks a link between science and the cosmos and the idea of divine order (see p. 198 in this volume).[7] Matthias Zündt is docu-mented as a journeyman in the workshop of his father-in-law, Wenzel Jamnitzer (see cats. 65, 70, 72). From at least 1560, Zündt was registered as a master goldsmith and gem cutter.[8] He can be called a universal artisan, as he also created models in wood and other materials, as well as ornamental casts; the exuberant stem of this clock can be attributed to him. He is mentioned as Bildenschnitzer (woodcarver) in 1559, when he was working for Ferdinand II, Archduke of Austria.[9]

Driven by the success of Augsburg clockmakers and demands to restrict outside access to local production, a masterpiece, or chef d’oeuvre, was introduced in Augsburg in 1558.[10] Revised require-ments issued in 1577 asked for, among other elements, “a spring-driven, quarter- striking clock movement with an alarm, a mechanically driven astrolabe, and mechanisms showing the length of the days (Nuremberg hours), the day of the year (calendar), and the days of the week (the planets with their signs). All these dials were to be interconnected and to move together with the motion of the hand on the main time-telling dial.” [11] Likely a masterpiece clock made for admission into the Augsburg clockmakers’ guild, this example (17.190.747) meets all the specified technical requirements. The tower-like form of the case was developed in the sixteenth cen-tury, when Augsburg clockmakers collaborated with metalworkers to make miniature gilded turrets. The architectural structure and the height of the column-framed sides provide an ideal surface for displaying the dials and features. The obelisk at the top is detachable and can serve as a winding key—an inventive example of the mar-riage between form and function. A very similar tower-shaped clock with an obelisk finial is depicted in a painting by Antonio de Pereda in the collection of the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna (fig. 99). Its presence there underlines the status of Augsburg and Nuremberg as the leading European centers of clockmaking in the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, as well as the Europe-wide export of these luxury goods, all designed to educate and impress (see also cat. 109 and pp. 198–99 in this volume).

(For figures cited and key to bibliography shortened references see Koeppe, Making Marvels: Science & Splendor at the Courts of Europe: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2019)
1. Vincent and Leopold 2015, p. 16.
2. Ibid., p. 62.
3. I thank Clare Vincent, Curator Emerita, Department of European Sculpture and Decorative Arts, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, for her advice. This entry is based largely on her recently published research. For more on J. Pierpont Morgan’s collections, see Auchincloss 1990; Strouse 2000; Sullivan 2015, pp. 3–4.
4. Bruce M. Donaldson in Metropolitan Museum 1914, p. 127.
5. See Maurice and Mayr 1980, p. 184,
no. 23; Vincent and Leopold 2015, pp. 16–21, no. 1.
6. Maurice and Mayr 1980, p. 189, no. 26; Vincent and Leopold 2015, p. 16.
7. See Vincent and Leopold 2015, p. 16; see also Thürigen 2018.
8. Wenzel Jamnitzer 1985, p. 372.
9. Vincent and Leopold 2015, p. 25.
10. For the importance of masterpieces, see Wolfram Koeppe in Kisluk-Grosheide, Koeppe, and Rieder 2006, pp. 26–28, no. 8.
11. See Vincent and Leopold 2015, p. 62.

Astronomical table clock, Case: gilded brass and gilded copper; Dials: gilded brass and silver; Movement: brass, gilded brass, and steel, German, Augsburg

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