Tick tock, goes the clock

Antonio Barozzi and its ingenious artifact

Fly tower, access gallery to the gridTeatro Regio di Parma

name was Antonio Barozzi and he is the author of this ingenious project.

Barozzi was surveyor and clockmaker born in Sissa in 1799 and he perfected the clock already in 1828 a few months before the inauguration of the Theatre in May 1829 and who, on the 27th of May that same year was appointed official clock keeper to the Theatre with an annual recompense of 129 lire for doing what was laid down in article 151 of the Theatre rule...

A view of the Arena from the Royal BoxTeatro Regio di Parma

...and that is “the duty of putting up the stage clock every evening that the Theatre is in use, lighting the prescribed system of illumination and putting it up without lights when the Theatre is used for rehearsals”.

Detail of the historic clock (1829)Teatro Regio di Parma

The extremely simple mechanism is that of a pendulum clock.

A number of weights proportional to the resistance of the cog-wheel transmit energy to the rotator system until it sets off the movement of the escapement wheel, governed by a hooked anchor which, in turn, makes the pendulum move and whose oscillation ensures constant frequency to the system.

Historical manual clock (1828) by Antonio BarozziTeatro Regio di Parma

The most fascinating part, however, is the method by which the two rings which show the hours and the minutes is moved.

They are two large black rings, one with the numbers of minutes and the one below, which is larger in diameter, with the hours both lined on the inside with a strip of white paper and with protruding cogs in the upper left part of each number.

A metal hand hooks on to a fork hanging from the top and rests on the cogs of the upper wheel.

Historic manual clock, counterweight (1829) by Antonio BarozziTeatro Regio di Parma

Through a system of ropes, the result of the forces in play allow the metal hand to retract every five minutes, so that it separates from the fork and free itself from the pivot allowing the ring to move anticlockwise only to be blocked again at the next pivot so that the wheel stops at the new hour number.

Historical manual clock, minutes in Arabic numerals (1828) by Antonio BarozziTeatro Regio di Parma

From the Theatre can be seen the small “jump” that the minute number makes as it stops; this is the rebound of the metal arm against the wheel cog.

Historical manual clock, parchment with protruding teeth inside the rings (1828) by Antonio BarozziTeatro Regio di Parma

Once the minute wheel has finished its twelve trigger movements, the system unblocks a second gated arm which in turn moves the larger wheel below by one trigger movement thus marking the hours with a similar mechanism.

The stage used as a tailor's shop, view from the grid (1854) by Gaetano MastellariTeatro Regio di Parma

The hiding place of this ingenious chronographic mechanism is both arcane and impervious at 16 metres off the ground...

Access gallery to the grid made in wooden beams (1854) by Gaetano MastellariTeatro Regio di Parma

...a small rectangular room whose most significant occupants are doubtless the large rings with the hours and minutes and the cable junctions which transmit movement, while hidden in the shadows is the small and elegantly simple rotary mechanism which feeds the entire system.

Detail of the historic clock (1829)Teatro Regio di Parma

A bare wooden table with a stool which probably was used to lay out the cables complete the scene of this “Collodian” recess.

Detail of the historical clockTeatro Regio di Parma

It is a small room but, not to put too fine a point on it, it also has a reputation as a love bower from the contemporary legend that Maria Luigia is said to have decreed that whoever managed to bring a girl up here to be kissed would have her fall in love for ever. However, we cannot be sure that the names and dates scribbled on the walls are those of successful lovers.

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