VASE-SHAPED
TABLE CLOCK
Germany, around 1600
Copper alloys, steel, wood; casting, chasing, carving, enamel, turning work, gilding
Sometimes the shape and decoration of a clock is so unconventional that its true purpose is at first a mystery.
This is the case of a vase-shaped clock, which is rarely found in museum collections.

Such timepieces were common
at the turn of the 16th and
17th centuries and embodied
the stylistic characteristics
of Mannerism: the unusual
form and functionality of
more than one object.

A gilded bronze clock from
the collection of the Moscow Kremlin Museums, dated around 1600, belongs to this type.
The clock case is in the form of a narrow-necked vase with two spectacularly curved scroll handles. Slender candlesticks are attached to each handle. The varied d├ęcor includes an openwork frieze at the top,
relief cartouches with small flowers and
scrolls at the centre, and narrow elongated grooves at the base.

Another dial with a bright gilt centre
and a single hand is the main dial,
which has three hour indices in both Roman and Arabic numerals. The sides
of the dial are decorated with lavish garlands of fruit in cartouches.
There is a bell inside the case of
the clock. At the top, in the centre of the neck, there is a narrow tube in which a complementary decoration could be placed, most likely a silver piece in the form of
a bouquet. This type of decoration on the lids of cups and pots is characteristic of the Mannerism
and early Baroque periods.
We can also see relief compositions
of bouquets in vases, which correspond to the peculiarities of early floral still life painting of the late 16th and early 17th centuries.
The clock has an inscription on
the top: a weight in letters, which tells us that this piece was made
in Russia in the 17th century.
The clock must have been placed
to the Treasury and later became part of the main collection of the Armoury Chamber. According to
the inventory book of the State Armoury Treasury of 1686/1687,
a significant part of the clock was already out of order at the end
of the 17th century, and attempts were made to restore it. A brief description of the clock is also
given in the Inventory of the Workshop and Armoury Chamber
of 1808, where particular attention is paid to its decorative design.
It also states that the clock is not working: "The movement is faulty".
There are two dials on either side of the
case. One of them, a silver dial with a
twelve-hour time division and one hand,
is of the type typical of early 17th-century German masters, with fanciful floral design, bird figures, that give the impression of
a garden in bloom. It shows two large
flowers on slender, curved stems, above
which a phoenix-like bird flies.
The dials are framed by carved cartouches, each with a pair of
moulded mascarons. The punched background of the cartouches is decorated with rectangular relief
details resembling precious stones.
The details, typical of Mannerism, help
to define the period in which the clock was created: similar forms were widespread in the European decorative and applied arts of the 16th and early 17th centuries.