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  • Place of origin:

    Italy (made)

  • Date:

    late 16th century (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Blown glass in a frame of ebony inlaid with ivory

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

During the 16th and 17th centuries sandglasses were used in various situations: in churches, typically to time the sermon; on ships to time the length of the watches; in the kitchens of wealthy households, probably to help judge cooking times. They are often illustrated in scholars' studies where they served meditation, or simply helped judge the time of day.

Sandglasses in this period were constructed from two matching glass ampoules sealed (often with wax or pitch) and bound with fabric at the joint. The 'sand' was usually a material less sensitive to moisture such as powdered metal, rock or eggshell.

These four sandglasses in a single frame run for different periods, probably subdivisions of an hour, but it has not been possible to time them precisely as the particles no longer run freely.

Physical description

Also known as an hourglass.

Place of Origin

Italy (made)


late 16th century (made)



Materials and Techniques

Blown glass in a frame of ebony inlaid with ivory


Height: 8.3 cm, Width: 14.5 cm

Object history note

Bought for £3 from Mons. Fulgence, Paris.
Display history: displayed in room 5 (case W.129) by 1925 (with 83-1880), and in room 74 (1964); in store (room 125s) by the 1980s.

Descriptive line

Four sand glasses fitted into an ebony case, inlaid with ivory. Italian, late 16th century.


Blown glass; Ebony; Ivory


Inlay (process)


Clocks & Watches


Furniture and Woodwork Collection

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