Saturday, December 17, 2011

Of Clocks and a Victim of Time

The Spanish Royal Clock Collection is one of the largest in the world, spread cross a number of palaces that have housed the king and court at various times. A representative selection is now on display at the Palacio Real, and it’s worth a look if you’re in Madrid.

Hildeyard's Clock of the Four Faces
There are two aspects to a clock, the technology and the art. Once the technology reaches a kind of plateau, as it has now, it is mainly the designers who make a difference, creating attractive and innovative pieces and giving the customers what they want, which is not necessarily the same thing.

After the perfection of the regulator in the early 18thC it was up to the artists, enamellists, sculptors, goldsmiths and jewellers to attract the attention of kings and other moneyed patrons. The result was a considerable amount of Baroque horror, whimsical allegory expressed in thick gold plate, but also some beautiful and original craftsmanship.

There was a long-case regulator clock with no face, and the clock on the pendulum itself, an elegant, striking piece by the Woolls brothers and the master Abraham Matthey, a beautiful skeleton clock with a helios pendulum and moon phases in blue ceramic, a curious clock on the end of a barrel carried by a negro, with too much gold for my taste, but the balance of the piece was perfect, almost like a Greek marble (this was by Michel Francois Piolaine).

The star of the show, at least in my judgement, is a four-faced clock by Thomas Hildeyard (a London clockmaker), quite magnificent, and a wonderful clock, as in a thing that ticks and tells you the right time, rather than a gallery piece. Every part of it has function, as well as beauty.

I blogged about the Viaduct of the Calle Segovia a couple of years ago. It’s just down the road from the Palace and, as we left, we saw an unnecessarily large number of police cars and ambulances, with more arriving. There was potential suicide on the viaduct, the latest aspirant to a large and growing association of the depressed, the disillusioned, the disappointed and the mad. He was between the plastic protective panelling and the parapet. There were policemen and paramedics everywhere and more arriving but no one seemed to know what to do. The police were instinctively keeping everybody back and the ambulance staff seemed to be giving each other moral support. You expected Denzil Washington to sweep in in an ostentatious but unmarked vehicle and for everyone to suddenly relax. We waited as was seemly, but in the end I don’t know whether he completed his final act of self-expression, or is lying in a hospital bed being talked at by experts and reflecting on where it all went wrong. Time, you see, changes everything, but it is responsible for nothing. It just passes, we take care of the rest.


James Higham said...

How did we jump from clocks to the Viaduct of the Calle Segovia?

CIngram said...

Because it's next door to the Palace where the clocks are being shown and I saw this incident as I was leaving. The connection between the two parts of the post is purely geographical which, in blogging terms, means there is no connection at all, especially as, rereading what I wrote, I realize that I didn't explain it properly.

I enjoyed the watches and was shocked by the incident. They were so close together in time and place that, in my experience, they were almost one thing. To anyone else, as you point out, they are not connected.