German, around 1600
- engraved and fire-gilt case with reliefs made of copper (ormolu)
- engraved and fire-gilt dial with day- and night hours,
made of engraved and fire-gilt copper (ormolu)
- iron and brass movement, partly engraved, verge escapement with fusee, petite sonnerie on bells, with two count wheels
- 4 × 7 ¾ × 7 ¾ in
Mechanical clocks were invented at the start of the 15th century, while the first horizontal table clocks were invented around 1520. This makes horizontal table clocks rom the Renaissance period a rare technical marvel that invoked fascination in artistically minded people even during their time. They formed an essential element of any royal art collection.
While the clock movements were only made of iron until around the mid-16th century, after this, clockmakers also began to produce parts made of brass and to decorate these by means of engraving, chasing or etching. These early pieces thus lost their purely purpose-driven form and became more diverse and optically elaborate thanks to various decorative elements.
The case of this particularly beautiful and large square table clock consists of fire-gilt copper decorated with floral and ornamental engravings on the dial, as well as mascarons and tendrils applied in the corners. All four side sections are haracterized by relief work, whereby two sides have outlets for the sound in order to better allow the chime to escape. Two winged griffins, surrounded vines, each flank a mandorla, in which the figure of a bishop sitting on a throne with a mitre, a book and a crosier is depicted. The griffin is a mystical hybrid i.e. mythological creature that has been depicted as a guardian since antiquity, since it represents vigilance and strength. During the Romanesque period, emphasis was placed on warding off all that was evil; in the Baroque period, its meaning shifted in the direction of God’s blessing and Christian generosity. This explains why griffins in general frequently are a part of ornamental decoration, particularly in the Middle Ages and the early modern period. Considering the portrayal of a bishop, this sumptuous table clock could have been created based on a courtly or clerical commission. This is a highly unusual rarity!