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Chamber clock

  • Place of origin:

    Burgundy (probably, made)

  • Date:

    Mid-15th century (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Iron and gilded brass

  • Credit Line:

    Mrs Sigismund Goetze in memory of her husband

  • Museum number:

    M.11-1940

  • Gallery location:

    On display at the British Museum

A spring-driven chamber clock made in Burgundy in the mid-fifteenth century. The gilt-brass case in Gothic style with an upper frieze pierced with quatrofoils in roundels and a lower frieze of lozenge pattern pierced with quatrofoils. Each corner pillar containes a figure of a saint; the pillars taper to form crotched spires; originally a further level of pillars would have supported a bell. Plinths for pillars have applied winged cherubs heads in relief (two are missing). Three saints can be identified as St Catherine of Alexandra, with book and sword; St George with dragon; St Helena, crowned with cross.

Physical description

Hexagonal with figures of saints on columns under crocketed canopies at the angles; it rests on six feet above which are applied churub- heads (two wanting); bands of tracery at top and bottom.

Place of Origin

Burgundy (probably, made)

Date

Mid-15th century (made)

Artist/maker

Unknown

Materials and Techniques

Iron and gilded brass

Dimensions

Height: 11 1/2 in, Width: 19 cm, Depth: 17 cm

Object history note

Historical significance: David Thompson (British Museum Clock Room) notes that this is one of two very rare surviving examples of a spring-driven clock (the earliest known). Converted to weight-drive, date unknown. The movement re-built. The case with restoration, probably in the 19th century. The other example is in the Germanisches National Museum, Nuremberg. [information provided by Pippa Shirley 6.11.1998]

The clock has been converted to be weight-driven, it was originally spring-driven. Beresford Hutchinson, former curator of clocks and watches at the British Museum, made a reconstruction of the movement to show the original arrangement of the spring barrels and fusees, based on the evidence provided by the original clock. Much of the clock is now missing; there is no dial and most of the wheelwork is replaced.

The clock was given by Constance Goetze, widow of Sigismund Goetze (1866-1939) in memory of her husband in 1940. The gift included a pewter tankard, two pricket candlesticks and another clock signed by Conrad Heckel of Vienna.

Descriptive line

Clock with iron movement in gilt brass case. Burgundian; mid-15th-century (with later restorations).

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Clocks, David Thompson, The British Museum, 2004, pp.18-19

Labels and date

Chamber Clock. Anonymous. Burgundy. Mid AD 1400s
This is the oldest clock in the British Museum. It is made of iron and gilded brass. The decoration reflects cathedral and church architecture of the time; each corner pillar has a niche containing a figure of a saint, the bell and parts of the case are now missing and the mechanism has been adapted originally it was driven by a spring but was later changed to weight driven. [Written by the British Museum] [1965 to present]

Materials

Iron; Brass; Gold leaf

Techniques

Gilding; Technique

Subjects depicted

Time

Categories

Clocks & Watches; Religion; Architecture

Collection

Metalwork Collection

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