- Museum number
Portrait of Melchior Klesel, archbishop of Vienna, three-quarter length to right, seated at a table with a tabernacle clock; first state before publisher's address. 1615
- Production date
Length: 409.000 millimetres (inc. mount)
Width: 309 millimetres
- Curator's comments
Visual Analysis by Pauline Wholey 2019
PORTRAIT OF MELCHIORI KLESEL
Klesel, the archbishop of Vienna in 1615, constructs his identity through surrounding himself with objects that refer to his intelligence, wealth, prestige, and profession.
In the 17th century, costume became the central aspect of conveying identity as it was a signifier of social stability. The main emphasis in this engraving is on the drapery and costume. The heavy drapery not only refers to his wealth but draws a link to antiquity, thereby ultimately adding to his authority and prestige conveyed by the sitter. The meticulous attention given to the ceremonial outfit of Klesel, a typical characteristic of Flemish painters, draws attention to his wealth and position in society.
The classical assertive pose reminds the viewer of roman emperors as he sits in his chair in a prestigious manner.
Deliberately surrounded by his books, the sitter portrays his intelligence as he holds the book in his hand, offering the viewer a sort of intellectual nonchalance. Furthermore, Rosary beads in middle of book page symbolise the knowledge from God will always be central as the book is central to the desk as well as centre of the book.
As mentioned by David Thompson, clocks from this period had two essential functions to fulfil; they were equally important as items that demonstrate status and one’s wealth, as well as objects of utility. Although the tabernacle clock on the desk is indicative of its owner’s wealth, it also refers to religious themes of mortality and temperance. Here the clock represents regularity and punctuality as aspects of self-control, which is found back in his posture and gaze to the viewer.
Thompson, David. Clocks. London: British Museum, 2004.
For another impression see O,3.168; for the second state see 1868,0808.2401; for a later copy see Bb,4.12.
- Not on display
- Latest: 5 (Sep 1995) Mount card deteriorating, print foxed.
- Acquisition date
- Acquisition notes
- The Ilbert Collection of clocks, prints and other related material was destined to be sold at Christie's auction house on 6th-7th November 1958. As a result of the generous donation of funds by Gilbert Edgar CBE the sale was cancelled and the material purchased privately from the beneficiaries of the Ilbert Estate.
Ilbert's watches were then acquired with further funds from Gilbert Edgar CBE, public donations and government funds. These were then registered in the series 1958,1201.
- Britain, Europe and Prehistory
- Registration number
- Additional IDs
Previous owner/ex-collection number: CAI.2903 (Ilbert Collection)