A Thousand Words

Jost Bürgi & Hans Jacob Emck's Equation Clock

by Mary Elizabeth Podles

According to modern schemes of classification, scientific instruments and works of art (with the possible exception of fine Swiss watches) exist in separate worlds. Such a sharp line did not always divide them: Jost Bürgi's astronomical clock from 1591 was both a cutting-edge technological achievement and an esthetic object with an artistic program that imbued it with further meaning. It was a collaboration between a clockmaker, a goldsmith, an astronomer, and, ultimately, a philosopher-prince. It measures small in size (4 3/8" x 6 1/8" x 6 1/8"), but into it is packed a great deal more than clockwork.

The astronomical clock . . .

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Mary Elizabeth Podles is the retired curator of Renaissance and Baroque art at the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland. She and her husband Leon, a Touchstone senior editor, have six children and live in Baltimore, Maryland.

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