Friday, April 27, 2012

figures of Death (skull)



Mary Queen of Scots’ Watch: Large skull watch given by the Queen to Mary Seton. The forehead of the skull is engraved with a figure of death between a palace and a cottage, and a quotation in Latin meaning ‘pale death visits with impartial foot the cottages of the poor and the castles of the rich’ (Horace). The skull is held upside down and the jaw lifted to read the silver dial. The hour is struck on a bell. Made by Moyant A Blois (1570-90). The escapement is unfortunately a conversion to lever.

The skull is of silver gilt and is engraved with lines of Horace, figures of Death with his scythe and hourglass, Adam and Eve, and the Crucifixion. The lower part of the skull is pierced to emit the sound when it strikes, being cut in the form of emblems of the Crucifixion. The works occupy the brain’s position in the skull fitting into a silver bell which fills the entire hollow of the skulL The hours are struck on this bell by a small hammer on a separate train..

The case is opened by dropping the under jaw, which turns upon a hinge, while the watchworks occupy the place of the brain.

Likely one of the earliest examples of horological “Memento Mori” (artistic reminders of ones mortality).

The original engraved dial with 18th century modified to a balance-spring movement by J. Moysan of Blois, France.  via The Seaton Family