A group of twelve gilt metal horizontal astronomical table clocks have many characteristics in common including a relief frieze on the theme of Orpheus and Eurydice charming animals from Europe and Africa. They appear as a hybrid between clock and astrolabe for offering a universal measurement of time.
The clock itself has three hands. One of them makes a 24 hours rotation indicated as a double 12 when the marks are accompanied by numerals. The other two hands run the solar minutes and the lunar time. Depending the specimens, it strikes hours or quarters.
In the following of the astrolabes, a planisphere engraved with reference lines enables to determine the unequal hour which is the division into twelve intervals of the time between sunrise and sunset, varying according to the rhythm of the seasons and to the longitude. Other indications apply to planets and zodiac, not missing also the annual calendar, the day of the week and the Italian time. The bottom plate is removable to access the mechanism.
A 23 cm diameter specimen, well preserved although several components have been modified or changed, was sold for £ 260K including premium by Christie's on July 5, 2002. The catalog explained that its attribution to South Germany around 1570 was linked to the Nuremberg engravings that served as models for Orpheus' images and to a mark punched on two other pieces of the group that also appears on a clock of another type at Stuttgart Castle.
The best preserved Orpheus clock surfaced in 2007. It is estimated $ 250K for sale by Bonhams in New York on December 6, lot 68. Its dimensions are almost identical to the specimen above. Its two bells ring hours and quarters.
SOLD for $ 275K including premium