Table Clock with Astronomical and Calendar Dials (ca. 1658) by Ludwig Hyrschöttel (Eirerschöttel)Milwaukee Art Museum
This luxurious, gilded (gold-covered) clock was a masterwork created by German clockmaker Ludwig Hyrschöttel in 1658.
In order to become independent clockmakers with their own workshops, clock artisans had to put in six to seven years of work both as an apprentice (assistant) and a journeyman (fully educated but not yet a master), and then create a “master clock.”
The master clock was submitted to the clockmakers’ guild, a city organization of craftsmen, which would decide if its maker were talented enough to be a master clockmaker.
This clock not only kept track of time, but also the sunrise, sunset, zodiac signs, planetary aspects, and phases of the moon, plus it had an alarm and a yearly calendar. This clock was multifunctional to the extreme.
Master clocks had specific technical requirements and had to be as impressive as possible for the maker to gain admission into the guild.
The four seasons are each represented by a relief image (or raised image) on the base of the clock. The technique used to create the reliefs is called repoussé, which involves hammering designs into the reverse side of the metal.
The four winged sea horses, serving as the “feet” of the clock, are not original to the piece; they were added sometime after 1893, when documentation suggests the base as a whole was replaced. Clocks of this type usually had lazy Susan–like bases so they could be turned, allowing viewers to see every side of the masterwork.
Chubby angelic figures called “putti” decorate the top and bottom of the clock, some playing musical instruments. The gilded material, intricate designs, and large size would have made this master clock the pride of any wealthy collector who bought it after its guild submission.
This clock is operated by a balance wheel verge escapement, a mechanism used between the fourteenth and nineteenth centuries that resulted in the clock making a “tick” sound as the gears advanced, keeping time.
Hyrschöttel could have used a more innovative and accurate mechanism—a pendulum. However, because of the strict requirements for the clockmakers’ guild, he had to make this masterwork submission using the more outdated method.
Ludwig Hyrschöttel (Eirerschöttel)
(Augsburg, Germany, master 1658)
Table Clock with Astronomical and Calendar Dials, ca. 1658
Gilt brass, gilt copper, brass, iron, blued iron, bell metal and silver
25 1/2 × 16 in. (64.77 × 40.64 cm)
Gift of Richard and Erna Flagg
Photographer credit: Michael Tropea