- Museum number
Design for a clock-salt, comprising hour-glass, sundial and compass for which there is a separate study at l; hourglass in a case on a pedestal, legs with satyrs, at top two putti, pointing to a metal arc which serves as a sundial, their fingers indicating the hour, above them a mechanical clock, surmounted by a crown, at left a compass dial seen from above
Pen and black ink with grey wash, and some red wash
- Production date
- 1543 (circa)
Height: 410 millimetres
Width: 213 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- Edited from J. Rowlands, 'German Drawings in the British Museum... by artists born before 1530', 2 vols. London, British Museum Press,1993, no. 328:
This design, one of the last of Holbein's works, was made for a clock presented by Sir Anthony Denny to Henry VIII on New Year's Day 1544 two months after the artist's death. Denny, gentleman of the bedchamber, was knighted in the September of the same year that the King received this gift from him. Henry VIII had a passion for clocks, on which he spent in three years over £100 (see N.H. Nicholas, 'The Privy Purse Expenses of King Henry the Eighth from November 1529 to December 1532', London, 1827, pp. 310f.).
The clock consists of an hourglass within a case on a pedestal, supported on legs with two satyrs. Above the hourglass stand two putti, each pointing to a metal arc which serves as a sundial, their fingers indicating the hour. An alternative design for the putti is also in the British Museum (SL,5308.86). In their liveliness they are reminiscent of the putti on the top of the sketch for a decorative frame at Basel (Kunstmuseum, Kupferstichkabinett, inv. no. 1662. 165. 95; C. Müller, 'Öffentliche Kunstsammlung Basel, Kupferstichkabinett: Katalog der Zeichnungen des 15. und 16. Jahrhunderts, Teil 2A, Die Zeichnungen von Hans Holbein dem Jüngeren und Ambrosius Holbein', Basel, 1996 no.230). Resting on the heads of the putti is a mechanical clock, surmounted with a crown. On its face is a sun with a fiery pointer. To the left of the clock is the compass, which no doubt was fitted with the head of the hourglass case. It seems likely that the sundial top with the two putti either lifted off or was hinged.
There exists an old copy of the present drawing, without the compass and inscriptions, and a copy of a now lost alternative design, with which the drawing for the putti (SL,5308.86) is also connected. These copies, which were formerly the property of Mrs Alfred Noyes and were exhibited by Baskett and Day in 1974, were dated by Dodgson to 1578-90, on the strength of the watermark of the paper of the copy of the lost design (Dodgson, op. cit., p. 227, pls. A and B).
Lit from Rowlands 1993: W.H. Smyth, Archaeologia, xxxiii, 1849, pp. 15f; Waagen, Treasures Suppl., p. 37; J. Burtt, Archaeological Journal, xviii, 1861, p. 137; BM Guide, 1862 (1867), pp. 6f, no. 15; Wor-num, Holbein, pp. 358f. ; Reid, pl. 3; Woltmann, i, p. 444, ii, p. 134, no. 193; His, pl. 47; BM Guide, 1895, p. 58, no. 289; LB, ii, pp. 330f., no. 17; Chamberlain, ii, pp. 276, 286, pl. 43; C. Dodgson, Burlington, lviii, 1931, pp. 226ff. ; Ganz, pp. 52f., no. 220, repr.; O. Pächt, Burlington, lxxxiv, 1944, pp. 134f., repr. detail; Collins, p. 101, repr.; White, p. 570, no. 187; J.F. Hayward, Connoisseur, clxii, 1966, pp. 90ff., repr.; Paris, Mariette, pp. 117f., no. 180, repr. (for further literature); Hayward, Virtuoso Goldsmiths, p. 342, pl. 47; Exhibition of Thirty Old Master Drawings of the Northern Schools, London, Baskett and Day, 2-26 April 1974, under nos. 3 and 4; BM Dürer and Holbein, pp. 248-9, no. 211, repr.; C. Müller, Zeitschr.f. Schweiz. Arch., xlvii, 1990, Heft 1, pp. 40f, repr.
Further lit: David Starkey, 'Henry VIII: A European Court in England' National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, 1991, p.135, no.IX.15; S. Foister, 'Holbein and England', New Haven and London, 2004, p138, fig.143
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
1862(67), BM , Guide Drawing&Prints, King’s Library, no. 15
1895 BM, Guide Drawings Old Masters, Malcolm Coll., no. 289
1934 BM, Exhibition of English Art, no.268
1988 July-Oct, BM, Age of Dürer & Holbein, no. 211
1991 May-Sep, Nat. Maritime Museum, 'Henry VIII', no. IX.15
1997/8 Nov-Feb, London, Nat. Gallery, 'Holbein's Ambassadors'
2003 Jan-Mar, Liverpool, Walker Art Gallery, 'Henry Vlll revealed'
2006/7 Sep-Jan, Tate Britain, 'Holbein in England', no. 80
2010 Mar-July, London, V&A, Horace Walpole's Strawberry Hill
- Previous owner
Previous owner/ex-collection: Pierre Jean Mariette (L. 1852; sale, Paris, Basan, 15.xi.1775-30.i.1776/943)
Previous owner/ex-collection: Horace Walpole, 4th Earl of Orford (Sale, Strawberry Hill, G. Robins, 1842, 17 May, lot 72, bt Graves £6 16s. 6d)
- Acquisition date
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number