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Early Baroque Crucifix Clock

Frühbarocke Kruzifixuhr

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Austria/South Germany, 17th century

engraved, chased and wrought ormolu, crucifixion group with silver figurines (consisting of Christ, Mary and John), silver-plated bronze mounts
time indication „au cercle tournant” with revolving enamel dial ring and stationary hand
verge escapement, hour strike on bell with count wheel, engraved ormolu plate with skillfully open-worked balance cock with detailed grape vine motif
12¼ in

Crucifix clocks are a phenomenon of the 16th and 17th centuries and were mainly made in southern Germany (particularly Augsburg) and Austria (especially Steyr/Upper Austria). They are a unique fusion of sculptural silversmithing, Christian devotional art and masterly clockmaking. The peculiarities of this type of clock include a base housing the movement, a mostly three-part figural crucifixion group and the rare „au cercle tournant“ time display.

This finely crafted early Baroque crucifix clock was created in the 17th century and is a first-class example of this special type of clock. The fire-gilt base with chased and embossed ornamentation provides space for the movement as well as for the bell of the hour strike with countwheel. An open-worked, circumferential arched arcade serves to improve the sound of the bell. Inside the vertical crossbeam is a long arbor that connects the movement to the chapter ring in the spherical finial. In this way, the time display „au cercle tournant“ is driven, in which (in contrast to a classic dial) the hand is fixed and the chapter ring rotates.

The plate is elaborately decorated with engravings and ornamental applications. The balance cock is adorned with an open worked vine with two birds and a crown motif. Some of the visible elements of the movement with verge escapement are also elaborately engraved.

The figurines of the crucifixion group, Christ, Mary and John, are made of silver. The INRI plaque and the eagle with outstretched wings (a symbol of Jesus‘ ascension) are made of silver-plated bronze, as is Adam’s skull. The latter refers to a Christian legend according to which the bones of Adam appeared at the foot of the cross at the moment of Jesus‘ death in an earthquake – a symbol of the redemption of humanity from the original sin of its progenitor.

This timepiece is an outstanding piece of early Baroque clockmaking and a precious treasure worthy of the chambers of art and wonders of the time.