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Picture Clock C. L. Hof(f)meister “Der Sommer-Garten in Petersburg” (titled, ”The Summer Garden in Saint Petersburg“)

Bilderuhr C. L. Hoffmeister Der Sommer-Garten in Petersburg


Vienna, second quarter of the 19th century

gilt bull’s eye-frame
verge escapement, Viennese grande sonnerie on wire gongs, repeater, musical movement with three tunes by “Jos. Olbrich in Wien No. 1884 24633”
oil on metal
30 ¼×40 ½ in

The face of this Viennese picture clock is embellished with an incredibly uncommon motif – the Summer Garden in St. Petersburg. The delicacy of the painting and the diverse, highly detailed figural staffage identify this painting as the work of the most famous and undoubtedly the best Viennese picture clock painter: C. L. Hof(f)meister.

Depicted here is the elegant Saint Petersburg Palace Embankment, on which the city’s residents stroll along the Neva or enjoy hacks on horseback and carriage rides. On the left-hand side, the Summer Garden’s high park fence with its vase-topped columns draws the attention to the depth of the composition. The Baroque garden encloses the Summer Palace of Peter the Great and was only accessible to the public on specific days.

The clock dial is integrated into the façade of the impressive Palais de Ribas (today the State University of Culture and Arts). Spanish-born officer José de Ribas y Boyons (Russian: Iossif Michailowitsch Deribas) rose to become admiral of the Black Sea Fleet under Catherine the Great and is deemed one of the most influential men of her reign. Behind this, we can make out the palace of Prince Saltykov (Austrian embassy from 1828 to 1855), the administrative building of the Marble Palace and lastly the Marble Palace itself, which Catherine the Great had built for her lover Grigory Orlov. On the right-hand side of the image, we see a merchant ship docking and, in the background, Vasilyevsky Island with its temple-like stock exchange. A lithography of this representative view of St. Petersburg is preserved in the collection of the Hermitage Museum (inv. no. 17318).

The movement with a verge escapement features a Viennese grande sonnerie with a repeater. The musical backdrop to the magnificent Petersburg veduta was provided by the famous Viennese Olbrich manufactory in the form of a musical movement with three melodies.

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