Until January 14, 2018, the exhibition “Watchmaking. Art. Clock of the 16th - 17th centuries in the Hermitage collection”, which presents the first unique monuments of watchmaking, created by European masters.
The exposition includes about a hundred items - table, wall, pocket mechanical clocks, as well as their predecessors - solar, lunar and stellar instruments for measuring time.
The creation of watches is an area of applied art, which combines several types of activities: the manufacture of the mechanism - the "heart" of the watch and the corresponding case-case. In the early period, watches were especially highly valued, they were made of rare, expensive materials and were intended primarily for the first persons of the state, influential persons and nobility.
In Russia, watches began to be used from the 16th century, later obsolete copies became collectible items. At the exhibition you can see items of various shapes, technical and artistic solutions, acquired by Peter I, Elizabeth Petrovna, Catherine II, as well as representatives of the St. Petersburg nobility.
The appearance of the first mechanical clocks was preceded by other devices for measuring time: water, sand, sundial, star clocks. The exposition includes: the oldest sundial in Russia by the Augsburg master Kliber (1556); The most complicated astronomical device, created in 1584 by other Augsburg masters Georg Rolle and Johann Reingold, is an astronomical clock with star and earth globes - a kind of system of the world in the representation of its era. A special place is occupied by the universal equatorial sundial, made by the craftsmen of the "Turner" of Peter I.
The first mechanical portable clocks were table clocks, in the Hermitage they are represented mainly by the works of German masters of the middle and second half of the 16th century. The earliest examples date from the first third of the 16th century. Only a few names of the first watchmakers have survived to our time. Their rare works are shown in the exhibition - a watch by the German watchmakers Hans Gruber with allegorical engraved scenes and a clock with a scene of the crucifixion of Hans Lucas Thorn. The French school is represented by a unique example of the Renaissance - a cylindrical clock made by Mathieu Bachelet.
The architectural forms of the early watch cases corresponded to the prevailing artistic style, and the decorative elements changed and varied. To enhance the decorative effect, the case was decorated with columns at the corners and a base at the base. In the upper part of the clock there was a chime bell crowned with chased figures, flowerpots, balusters. There was usually a dial in the center, sometimes two or three. The main surface of the products of that time was covered with a variety of engraved and chased compositions dating back to the engravings of that period. The masters repeated the plot composition almost completely, sometimes they used individual figures or fragments of ornaments. The most common were images of allegorical figures of Astrology, Time, Truth, Mercy.
The first pocket watches are presented at the exhibition in all the variety of their forms: in the form of a book, a figurine, a flower bud, a skull, a cross. The works of B. Magnen, Isidore Champion, Jacques Serman, executed in the form of a cross, could have belonged to clergy. Most often, miniature clocks were made in the form of a circle, oval, octagon, square. Square clocks were especially widespread in the 17th century, examples of which are the works of the masters Louis Baronno, Johann Sigmund Schlöer.
The decor of the watch included engraved inscriptions, for example, such as: Fugitirreharabiletempus ("Time is running out"), Tempusfugit ("Time is running out"), Fugitaetasutumbr ("Life runs like a shadow") and others. Reflections about changes in nature that do not depend on man, about the constant movement of the sun and planets, the progress of science in the study of the world around them are reflected in the form of a clock made in the form of a globe with signs of the zodiacal constellations or a ball with a dial along the equator.
The most popular form of pocket watches was the circle, since the second half of the 17th century it became dominant. The materials of the round cases are varied: gold, silver, carved from stone, with lids made of rock crystal, decorated with precious stones and enamel paintings. The art of decoration is vividly represented in the watches of the German master Johann Oldenburg, the outstanding French watchmaker Nicola Lemendre and a whole galaxy of masters from European watchmaking centers. Throughout the 17th century, the characteristic features of the Baroque style manifested themselves in the use of lush floral ornaments and bright color accents. A new type of enamel decoration became widespread in the last quarter of the 17th century in France and Switzerland: the inner, outer, side surfaces of the cases and even the dial are decorated with compositions of painted enamel. Among them are magnificent watch cases with paintings made by the brothers Jean-Pierre and Amy Huo and followers of the picturesque originals of their contemporaries.
The exhibition has been prepared by the State Hermitage's Department of Western European Applied Art. Curator, author of the concept of the exhibition - Olga G. Kostyuk, Deputy Head of the Department of Western European Applied Art, Ph. D.
Exhibition “Watchmaking. Clock of the 16th - 17th centuries in the Hermitage collection”is open in the Blue Bedroom of the Winter Palace until January 14, 2018. Free admission every first Thursday of the month.
According to the press service of the State Hermitage.