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This is the most precious clock in the Wawel collection clocks. It has a unique, impressive form and a complicated mechanism. The clock's case resembles a monstrance, with the clock dial, held by a kneeling mermaid, replacing the nimbus.

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This is the most precious clock in the Wawel collection clocks. It has a unique, impressive form and a complicated mechanism. The clock's case resembles a monstrance, with the clock dial, held by a kneeling mermaid, replacing the nimbus. In the upper part, there is an alarm clock in a box resembling tower clocks. The mechanism of the main clock is fitted with a mainspring with a spindle escapement and regulated by a short back pendulum. Apart from the time scale with minutes and hours, the dial is enriched with various astronomical information: moon phases, a moon calendar, the days and months, sunrises and sunsets, day and night lengths, and the sings of the Zodiac. The ornamented shaft with a mermaid figure resembles certain German goldsmithery works, the so called Nautiluspokal, created in workshops of Nuremberg and Augsburg around 1600. The shell goblets created there are often supported on raised kneeling mermaids or tritons.
Some examples of monstrance clocks can be found in paintings of the 16th and 17th centuries, i.e. in the portrait of Casimir Jagiellon in the Church of Franciscan Order in Kraków, attributed to Daniel Schultz.
According to the traditional story passed down through the Cieński family, from whom the clock was bought, it was captured during the Battle of Vienna, or it was Marcin Cieński, the Hussar banner leader, who had the clock with him during the Battle. Jan Matejko made use of this tradition and placed the clock in his painting, Sobieski at the Battle of Vienna (Vatican Museums). The clock was exhibited in the Cloth Hall, in Kraków, in 1883, during the commemoration of the anniversary of the Victory at Vienna, where it aroused the interest of the public and critics. A representative of the Rothschild family made an offer of purchase of the clock. However, it was Jan Matejko who convinced the owners to reject the offer and prevented the clock from being taken out of the country. Fifty years later, owing to the efforts of Stanisław Świerz-Zaleski, the curator, this splendid clock was finally included in the Wawel collection.

Elaborated by Stanisława Link-Lenczowska (Wawel Royal Castle), editorial team of Małopolska’s Virtual Museums, © all rights reserved

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Astronomical monstrance clock

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