Vienna, first quarter of the 19th century
- “Benedickt Martin Wien”
- Benedi(c)kt Martin,
- Vienna, master 1818-1840
- carved, painted and gilt lime wood
- anchor escapement, indication of date, duration of two days
- 14¼ in
As far back as the early advanced civilizations of Mesopotamia, the eagle occupied a prominent role as a symbol of dominance. In Greek mythology, the majestic bird of prey was the messenger of the father of gods, Zeus. Rome adopted the eagle as a companion of the supreme god Jupiter. The Aquila standard – the legionary eagle sitting atop pole with a thunderbolt in its claws – became the most important standard. Above all, however, the eagle was the symbol of the Roman emperors and their apotheosis; after all, it was said that after their death, the souls of the Caesars were carried to the realm of the gods by an eagle. Subsequently, the eagle became the heraldic animal of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation, and eventually also of the Habsburg Monarchy as well as the French Empire under Napoleon Bonaparte.
In the imperial city of Vienna, so-called “eagle clocks” enjoyed great popularity. These are wall clocks belonging to the cartel clock category that are carved from limewood and given a sculptural design. The king of the skies usually sits enthroned above the dial, while the clock case is generally envisioned in the form of fabric drapery.
This eagle clock with a date display was produced in the first quarter of the 19th century by Viennese master clockmaker Benedikt Martin, whose signature is inscribed on the enamel dial. The magnificent bird of prey spreads his wings as he carries the clock cloaked in fabric drapery. The naturalistic posture with asymmetrically positioned wings and claws convincingly conveys the wild, untamed nature of the animal and gives the clock case an extraordinary dynamism. The carved folds of fabric featuring a deep blue color, golden pattern and gold leaf fringed edges, in turn, are a reference to the splendor of the Habsburg Court and its nobility. Beneath the dial, the drapery forms a loop that serves as a viewing window for the pendulum bob bearing the face of the sun god Helios.