(K. Brent Tomer),
A GILDED bronze sculpture presents Bacchus as a chubby, mischievous and determined baby. The god of wine’s curls are ringed with grape-heavy vines, he holds a bottle—not meant for milk—and straddles a wine barrel with a silver clock face. On the hour, the tyke opens his mouth and lifts his bottle to it. This automaton clock, a princely treasure and princely toy, was made in Augsburg, south Germany around 1615. It would have been kept in a Kunstkammer, a room dedicated to the display of the very latest and best in scientific discoveries and works of art. As an example of both, it is dazzling evidence of the revolution in timekeeping then underway.
For millennia sundials, water clocks, hour glasses and ringing bells marked divisions in the day. Centuries of experimentation led to the weight-driven clock of the Middle Ages. Then, in the late 15th century during Europe’s Renaissance, the first spring-driven timekeeper was invented. Efforts to miniaturise the clockworks followed, and soon succeeded with the result that the portable, mechanical clock became a reality. It was a tremendous technological breakthrough; people could know the hour whether on land or sea,…Continue reading