As you all know, Loretta and I have a weakness for early automatons - those elegant, ingenious clockwork wind-ups made of precious metals and jewels that were the toys of the rich and titled in the 17th-19th centuries. (See more examples here, here, here, and here.)
Made in Augsburg, Germany around 1610, this automaton is particularly fascinating. Not only is it a fantastic clock, with the ancient goddess Diana rolling her eyes, taking aim, and finally shooting her arrow, but her "chariot" can travel under its own power, too. According to the museum's description:
"Probably drawing inspiration from contemporary prints, the clock portrays the Roman goddess of the hunt, Diana, on a chariot pulled by two leopards. Precious clocks like this were collaborative enterprises among goldsmiths, sculptors, clockmakers, engravers, and even cabinetmakers. They were important status symbols in European courts, representative of the most cutting-edge technology of their time, and they were often used as diplomatic gifts. This clock...is also a table carriage, a lavish form of tabletop entertainment during banquets. This short video unveils the highly sophisticated inner mechanism of the clock, delicate parts that are otherwise hidden from view and are remarkably still in tact. The video also captures the mesmerizing movements and sounds the clock makes when wound, revealing the creative and technical mastery behind this ingenious work of art."
I feel sure that someday Loretta or I (or maybe each of us) are going to write that scene when the gilded chariot travels down the dining table....
Automaton Clock in the Form of Diana on her Chariot, maker unknown, c1610, Yale University Art Gallery.
There’s a big difference in how we use history. But we’re equally nuts about it. To us, the everyday details of life in the past are things to talk about, ponder, make fun of -- much in the way normal people talk about their favorite reality show.
We talk about who’s wearing what and who’s sleeping with whom. We try to sort out rumor or myth from fact. We thought there must be at least three other people out there who think history’s fascinating and fun, too. This blog is for them.