Altar Clock - inv. 3430

Giovan Pietro Callin (17th century), painted decoration by Giovanni Battista Gaulli called Baciccio (1639-1709)

Altar Clock
17th century, last quarter
bronze gilt   wood   oil on wood   brass  
height 730 mm
signature
"Giovan Pietro Callin"
1973  Bruno Falck
Inv. 3430

This ‘altar’ clock, inspired by the shape of Counter Reformation altarpieces, recalls ‘night’ clocks both in the architectural structure of its ebonised wood case and in its face, where the discs showing the hours revolve in a semicircular opening. The practice of painting the face, typical of Italian clocks, began only between 1660 and 1670. The allegorical subject portrayed here is frequent in ‘night’ clocks. Truth, the friend of light, is holding the Sun in her right hand and wearing a minimum of drapes, since it is in her nature to be simple. Time is depicted as an old winged man, like the saying, volat irreparabile tempus (time flies). Falsehood, with his brown flesh almost lost in the darkness of the background, lies twisted at their feet. Two inscriptions alluding to the transience of time appear on the semicircle of the hours. Originally from Genoa, Baciccio moved to Rome when young where, thanks to his friendship with Bernini, he became successful with both the lay and the ecclesiastical aristocracy. Realised in about 1670, this work is held to be one of the first commissioned from the artist, due to a certain awkwardness in rendering the volumes and the perspective. G.B.