In history Monday, July 2nd 2012
French Glass dial mystery mantle clock, second half of the 19th century, Museo Cerralbo Madrid.
French Glass dial mystery mantle clock, 64 × 18 cm, second half of the 19th century. Anonymous. Museo Cerralbo Madrid, Inventory Nº 1628
The Palacio Museo Cerralbo is unusual in being one of Madrid’s few examples of a scrupulous restoration of an aristocratic residence with its original decorative feel carried out in the first decade of the 21st century. It is a compilation of late-nineteenth-century Spanish tastes and collecting sense, conserving the essence of the age that spawned it under the auspices of Don Enrique de Aguilera (1845-1922), marquis de Cerralbo, politician, historian, archaeologist and passionate collector who left his palace and collections to the Spanish State.
The clocks collected by the marquis de Cerralbo span from the eighteenth to twentieth centuries and reflect the taste in an aristocratic house. Each clock plays an important role in a room of the palace and they are all part of the interior decoration. This implies that the collection was not amassed for the purpose of sheer accumulation, but for furnishing the residence.
In broad terms the collection consists of the two mechanical systems that prevailed in the history of clock-making: English bracket clocks in their tabletop versions, and the French porcelain, gilt bronze, alabaster or wood case clocks with Boulle marquetry. There are also two German seventeenth century objects: a tower-shaped brass clock without a case and a silver-cased carriage clock. Other timepieces for personal use complete the list including various sun dials and pendant and pocket watches for ladies and gentlemen.
The French clocks include three mystery clocks, one of which we describe below. French Glass dial mystery mantle clock, second half of the 19th century at the Museo Cerralbo Madrid.
Made in bronze, dark red marble with white veins and silvered metal. Glass dial. Consisting of a figure standing on a base, a classical sculpture of a young woman, her hand raised to head height holding a rod that carries the adjustable suspension block and pin surmounted by a totally transparent glass dial, the sphere at the bottom houses the movement and is decorated with a monogram L M. Small eight day (Paris) movement. Silent.
It belongs to a category of clocks called Diana clocks, in which the movement is housed in a spherical ball, which normally bears the dial inserted into it. But in this case the dial is flat and separate at the top. There is no apparent connection between the movement and the pendulum. The oscillation produced by the swing of the pendulum, moves a counterweight that causes a ratchet to advance one by one the teeth of a minuscule centre movement which in turn drives both hands balanced by small lead cylinders. ■
Bibliography: Luis Montañés: Relojes misteriosos (I). Revista Antiquaria nº 109. Madrid. September 1993.
Luis Montañés: Relojes de un palacio. Madrid. 1997
The ancient art of time measurement
The art of time measurement is one of the great advances of humankind. This centuries-old heritage is rightfully conserved in numerous, though often little-known, museums. So as to bring these riches to life, HH Magazine presents some of the most exceptional pieces, chosen for their technical significance, historical importance, or for their beauty. This regular feature trains the spotlight on a timepiece which has been chosen and described by the curator of the horological collection of one of the approximately two hundred public or private museums which conserve clocks and watches in their collections.