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Picture Clock with Automaton „The Neptune Fountain in the Palace Grounds“

Wiener Bilderuhr mit Automat Der Neptunbrunnen im Schlosspark


Vienna, second quarter of the 19th century

gilt bull’s-eye frame
verge escapement, Viennese grande sonnerie on wire gongs, repeater, wire gong base signed “M. Miller & Sohn” Martin Miller (Müller), Vienna, manufacturer of clock parts (esp. mainsprings), 1769 Vienna – 1833 St. Ägyd/Lower Austria, automaton (fountain) coupled with the strike, musical movement with one tune numbered “N. 556 7825”
oil on metal
24¼×31 in

provenance: collection Prof. Dr. Hans von Bertele, Vienna

This charming Viennese picture clock comes from the renowned collection of Prof. Dr. Hans von Bertele and captivates with an atmospheric view of idealized castle grounds with a Neptune fountain.

The classicist palace architecture is enhanced by a medieval-style gateway into which the clock face is integrated. A large bridge leads from the castle over a waterfall to a romantic pleasure garden, where high society strolls and meets for conversation. Behind the low park wall crowned with vases, a vast river landscape stretches out in the mist. The entire scene is bathed in golden evening light and is reminiscent of famous parks enriched with water features such as those at Hellbrunn palace (Salzburg) or Laxenburg castle (Lower Austria) .

The focal point of the castle grounds and the composition is the Neptune fountain, whose two spouts are brought to life by an automaton every quarter of an hour. The illusion of bubbling water is created with the help of two rotating painted metal discs, which are connected to the movement by long strings with pulleys and are triggered by the striking mechanism.

The Roman god Neptune (Greek: Poseidon) is the lord of the sea and all flowing waters. His most important attribute, the trident, was often used as a hunting weapon for fishing in ancient times. In addition to dolphins (Neptune’s messengers), the fountain also depicts sea nymphs (Nereids), who also belong to the god’s entourage. The fountain sculpture depicted here is inspired by the numerous Neptune fountains that have been created since the Renaissance, but is particularly close to the Neptune figure in the arcaded fish basins of Kremsmünster Abbey (Jakob Prandtauer, early 18th century).

The movement with verge escapement has a Viennese quarter strike on wire gongs. The wire gong bracket is stamped with „Martin Miller & Sohn“ – a well-known Viennese manufacturer of clock components active in the first half of the 19th century. Such a stamp is a rarity and an indication of the authenticity of the mechanical technology of this Viennese picture clock. A musical movement with one tune rounds off this horological work of art.