Exhibitions/ Art Object

Astronomical table clock

Movement probably by Jeremias Metzger (German, ca. 1525–ca. 1597)
Signed by Caspar Behaim (Chasparus Bohemus) (Austrian, active 1568–84)
German, Augsburg
Case and dials: gilded brass; Movement: iron
Overall: 14 1/4 × 8 1/2 × 5 3/4 in. (36.2 × 21.6 × 14.6 cm)
Credit Line:
Gift of J. Pierpont Morgan, 1917
Accession Number:
Not on view
In the 1500s, priceless knowledge was validated through splendid casework. Supporting technological endeavor was a way for noble sponsors to earn intellectual kudos, even to magically gain scientific knowledge as if by osmosis. Holy Roman Emperor Ferdinand I, for example, famously filled his curiosity cabinet with clocks. This example shows the stars’ positions, days of the week with planetary rulers, the time in Roman and Arabic numerals, daylight and nighttime hours, and the date; it even includes a disk for setting an alarm. Its Viennese maker, Behaim, may have collaborated with Metzger, of Augsburg, whose clocks were so sought after that he stretched guild rules to meet the demand.

[Elizabeth Cleland, 2017]
Signature: Engraved on left side of case: MEFECIT · CHAS / PARVS · BOHEMVS / INVIÆNNA · AVS / TRIA ANNO / 1568

Marking: Each struck twice on movement:
[1] crescent moon and the initial B inside a trefoil motif.
[2] crescent moon and star over star and crescent moon, inside shield-shaped motif.

On movement: (punched, in cameo) CB and moon and stars within a shield (maker's mark)
Charles Stein (before 1878–1886; Stein Collection sale, Galerie Georges Petit, Paris, May 10–14, 1886, no. 215); Frédéric Spitzer (before 1893–ca. 1906) ; J. Pierpont Morgan (by 1906–17; to MMA)
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