Exhibition | The Luxury of Time: European Clocks and Watches

Posted in books, catalogues, exhibitions by Editor on November 13, 2015

From The Met:

The Luxury of Time: European Clocks and Watches
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 16 November 2015 — 27 March 2016

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Clockmaker: Ferdinand Berthoud (French, 1727–1807); Case maker: Balthazar Lieutaud (French, ca. 1720–1780, master 1749). Longcase astronomical regulator (detail), ca. 1768–70. Case: oak veneered with ebony and brass, with gilt-bronze mounts; Dial: white enamel; Movement: gilded brass and steel; Height: 90.5 in. (229.9 cm). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, (1982.60.50).

Time is all around us, displayed on our phones and computers. Today, almost nobody needs to own a watch or a clock to tell the time. Access to the right time is not the luxury it once was. Yet the fascination with clocks and watches persists, and the thriving market for mechanical timekeepers is deeply aware of their history. Clocks and watches have always been about more than just telling time: they have been treasured as objects of desire and wonder, personal items imbued with value that goes beyond pure functionality. As works of art, they represent the marriage of innovation and craftsmanship.

This exhibition explores the relationship between the artistry of the exterior form of European timekeepers and the brilliantly conceived technology that they contain. Drawn from the Museum’s distinguished collection of German, French, English, and Swiss horology from the sixteenth through the nineteenth century, the extraordinary objects on view show how clocks and watches were made into lavish furniture or exquisite jewelry.

The creation of timekeepers required that clockmakers work with cabinetmakers, goldsmiths and silversmiths, enamelers, chasers and gilders, engravers, and even those working in sculpture and porcelain. These craftsmen were tasked with accommodating internal mechanisms by producing cases that, in both shape and function, adapted to timekeeping technologies. Their exteriors are often as complicated as the movements they house. Examining the dialogue between inside and out, adornment and ingenuity, The Luxury of Time
reveals the complex evolution of European clockmaking and
the central place of timekeepers in the history of decorative arts.

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The catalogue is scheduled for publication in February. From Yale UP:

Clare Vincent and Jan Hendrik Leopold, with Elizabeth Sullivan, European Clocks and Watches in The Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2016), 288 pages, ISBN: 978-1588395795, $65.

9781588395795Among the world’s great technological and imaginative achievements is the invention and development of the timepiece. Examining for the first time the Metropolitan Museum’s unparalleled collection of European clocks and watches created from the early middle ages through the 19th century, this fascinating book enriches our understanding of the origins and evolution of these ingenious works.  It showcases 54 extraordinary clocks, watches, and other timekeeping devices, each represented with an in-depth description and new photography showing the exterior as well as the inner mechanisms.  Included are an ornate celestial timepiece that accurately predicts the trajectory of the sun, moon, and stars and a longcase clock by David Roentgen that shows the time in the ten most important cities of the day. These works, created by clockmakers, scientists, and artists in England, Germany, France, Italy, and the Netherlands, have been selected for their artistic beauty and design excellence, as well as for their sophisticated and awe-inspiring mechanics. Built upon decades of expert research, this publication is a long-overdue survey of these stunning visual and technological marvels.

Clare Vincent is associate curator, European Sculpture and Decorative Arts, The Metropolitan Museum of Art. J. H. Leopold was former assistant keeper in charge of the horological collections at The British Museum. Elizabeth Sullivan is research associate, European Sculpture and Decorative Arts, The Metropolitan Museum of Art.


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