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Excellent Figural Mantel Clock “Chariot of Mercury”

Skulpturenuhr Triumphwagen des Merkur


Vienna, around 1800

carved, silvered and gilt lime wood, chariot pulled by a lion with Cupid on the coachmen’s seat and a figurine of Mercury/ Hermes inspired by the “Flying Mercury” by Giambologna
anchor escapement, half-hour-strike on wire gong, repeater
17¼ in

Mantel clocks shaped like figures and made of carved and leaf-gilt limewood were a specialty of Viennese case makers of the late 18th and early 19th centuries. This excellent figural clock from around 1800 is one of the rare cases in Vienna in the shape of a chariot, which were mostly inspired by Greek and Roman mythology.

The shell-shaped chariot is pulled by a lion. On the coach box sits the winged Cupid with his bow in his hand, steering the wild animal. Mercury, the messenger of the gods (Greek: Hermes) is standing on the back of the chariot, seemingly about to take to the skies. In one hand he holds the socalled Caduceus, the staff of Hermes, a symbol of economy and trade, and in the other a torch, the attribute of Venus, which symbolizes burning love. The inspiration for the carved figurine was the famous bronze statuette ”Flying Mercury“ by the Florentine sculptor Giovanni da Bologna, called Giambologna (1529-1608).

Mercury and Cupid share a special relationship – after all, the clever messenger of the gods is considered the educator of the childlike god, who taught him arithmetic, writing and reading. In this way, the astute Mercury is said to have steered the unbridled love personified by Cupid into sensible channels.

Another allegorical element is the lion tamed by Cupid which is used as a draft animal. This is the concept of ”amor vincit omnia“ – the victory of love over even the most powerful opponent.

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