Clocks in the Collections of the Wawel Royal Castle
Exhibition on view March 3-May 3, 2015
This is the first exhibition devoted to the Wawel Royal Castle's collection of over ninety fine clocks and watches, one of the most significant in Poland.
The collection was started in the 1920s during the castle's restoration, when the restorers turned their attention to furnishing the interiors. In their search for objects, the overarching principle was finding works that related to the
former royal collections of the Jagiellons and Vasas. These principles continue to guide the acquisitions policy to this day.
Over the course of nearly a century the Wawel has assembled a sizeable group, including a number of early table clocks from the late 16th and 17th centuries.
The most remarkable timepieces in the collection are signed works by Augsburg clockmaker David Fronmiller (active 4th quarter 16th century –1618), and include an extremely rare vase clock, as well as pieces by Lorentz Wolbrecht of Toruń (active 1662–1684), such as a splendid monstrance clock with a decorative base in the form of a mermaid. Equally prized are works by the Gdańsk clockmaker Simon Ginter (active ca. mid-17th century) and Jakub Gierke (active 1616–1666) of Wilno (Vilnius): their workshops produced decorative horizontal table clocks known in Poland as "tile clocks" or "frogs" because of their shape. Other clocks of this type in the collection were made by
clockmakers from Gdańsk, Toruń, Wilno (Vilnius), Lublin, and Augsburg.
The 18th century is represented by primarily French wallmounted clocks – bracket clocks, with cases decorated with marquetry, inlaid with bone, lacquered or painted to imitate lacquer, and cartel clocks with gilt bronze cases in asymmetrical Rococo lines, often further embellished by the addition of delicate porcelain elements. One example of the latter is a Louis XV cartel clock by the celebrated Parisian clockmaker Gille L’Aîné (active 1720–1765).
Another important group are mantel clocks, again primarily French, from the end of the 18th century and first half of the 19th, that feature figures of Apollo, Cupid, Zephyr, the god of winds, Ceres, Jason capturing the Golden Fleece, or Alexander the Great.
Dutch, English, and Austrian clocks are less well represented, although there are several interesting examples of wall clocks, cabinet clocks, and long-case clocks.
A small group of portable timepieces rounds out the collection. These include carriage clocks from Friedberg, an 18th-century center specializing in the production of clocks of this type; pocket watches from the 18th and 19th centuries; and ladies' wristwatches from the 1920s.