• France, c. 1712
  • Carcass in oak inlaid with ebony, brass, and tortoiseshell; bronze
  • Inv. 256

Astronomical clock

André-Charles Boulle, attrib.

An imposing clock, not only by virtue of its dimensions but also because of the monumental character of its sculptural decoration, one of the characteristics of Boulle’s work. It is believed to have been commissioned by Cardinal Pietro Ottoboni, whose cardinalatial arms and insignia can be seen on the upper part of the group of sculptures, a representation of Pheme. On the base of the clock, composed of four pilasters, Chronos can be seen lying next to a small cupid, representing an allegory of time. This sculptural group is seated on a piece of drapery on which an engraved scene depicts Pope Alexander VIII condemning the Jansenist doctrines.

The case of this clock is made of wood and is inlaid with ebony and brass over a tortoiseshell backing, another of the ‘features’ of Boulle’s work. The quality and skill of Boulle’s pieces led him to be appointed master cabinetmaker to the king by Louis XV and to be installed, under royal protection, in the galleries of the Louvre, where Jacques Thuret, the master watchmaker to the king, also worked. Since it is an astrological clock, it is designed to have a highly accurate mechanism, which, besides indicating the hours, minutes and seconds, also provides other information such as the date, the phases of the moon, the position of the sun, and also the signs of the zodiac.

Cardinal Pietro Ottoboni. Acquired by Calouste Gulbenkian from Duveen, Paris, January 1922.

H .113 cm; W. 52 cm; D. 42 cm

Lisbon 2011

Calouste Gulbenkian Museum. Lisbon: Calouste Gulbenkian Museum, 2011, p. 124, cat. 98.

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