Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Automaton clock in the form of the Madonna and Child

Clockmaker: Nikolaus Schmidt the Elder (German, ca. 1550–1630)
ca. 1620–25
German, Augsburg
Case: gilded brass, silver, and ebony veneered on oak; Movement: brass and iron
Overall: 12 1/2 × 6 1/2 × 4 1/2 in. (31.8 × 16.5 × 11.4 cm)
Credit Line:
Gift of Mrs. Simon Guggenheim, 1929
Accession Number:
Not on view
Automaton clocks are related to the mechanized figures that adorned medieval clock towers, where the Madonna and Child could appear as part of a mechanical theater on feast days. Small domestic automata with religious themes were popular in the seventeenth century and versions of this model, like many of the period, were cast in quantity. Here, the Madonna’s crown functions as a clock dial and her scepter points to the hour.
Marking: Case stamped:
[1] EBEN (Augsburg cabinetmakers’ mark for ebony);
[2] pinecone (Augsburg town mark);

[3] maker’s mark of Nikolaus Schmidt the Elder
Mrs. Simon Guggenheim (until 1929; to MMA)
Related Objects

Toilet set in original leather case

Artist: Fourteen identified German (Augsburg) goldsmiths and other German artisans; Japanese (Imari) porcelain maker Date: ca. 1743–45 Medium: Gilt silver, hard-paste porcelain, cut glass, walnut, carved and partially gilt coniferous wood, blind-tooled and partially gilt leather, partially gilt steel and iron, textiles, moiré paper, hog's bristle Accession: 2005.364.1a–d–.48 On view in:Gallery 551

Diana and the Stag

Artist: Joachim Friess (ca. 1579–1620, master 1610) Date: ca. 1620 Medium: Partially gilded silver, enamel, jewels (case); iron, wood (movement) Accession: 17.190.746 On view in:Not on view

Mantel clock

Artist: Clockmaker: Franz Xavier Gegenreiner (German, active 1760–70) Date: case ca. 1710, movement ca. 1760–70 Medium: Case: tortoiseshell backed with brass leaf, pearwood veneered with rosewood; and partly gilded silver; Movement: gilded brass and steel Accession: 46.162 On view in:Gallery 533


Artist: Johann Valentin Gevers (German, ca. 1662–1732) Date: ca. 1710 Medium: Oak and pine veneered with tortoiseshell, silver, silver gilt, and green-stained ivory; mirror glass Accession: 1989.20 On view in:Gallery 531


Artist: Matthias Walbaum (German, Kiel 1554–1632 Augsburg) Date: 1598–1600 Medium: Ebony, silver, gilded silver, gouache on parchment Accession: 17.190.823 On view in:Gallery 521