Time!

27/02/2015

Looking at the date, I've realised that we only have 21 days to go with our campaign; in order to remind you all of the passing of time, I thought I would look more closely at one of the timepieces in the Paston Treasure!

There is a large clock, an hourglass and a watch in this picture. To depict an hourglass and watch is not uncommon in paintings like these – more reminders of the passing of time, the ephemerality of life, and the inevitable approach of death. The clock however is more unusual.

Apparently it is quite a modern piece for the 1660s/70s, and represents the latest in technology. It was only from the 1650s that clocks had begun to be fitted with minute hands. The pendulum, although that is not visible here, was also a new invention at this date, allowing makers to produce clocks more accurate than they had ever been before.

The diamond shape of the wall clock seen here is rare, and few are known of this type. Of course, it is a perfect shape to fill the space the artist had to use when he painted out the woman, and its dark wood, contrasting with the gilt and white enamel face, makes sure we see the time clearly among the other objects, but should we be surprised that Robert Paston was making as much of a statement with his choice of clock as with everything else in this painting? No – he was clearly a man who liked us to see how up-to-date he was, with his beautiful possessions in the latest fashion!

As a member of the Royal Society, with friends including the best-known scientists of his day, Robert was in a prime position to learn about technological developments as they happened.

May I remind you all of the passing of time – and, if you haven't yet told your friends about the campaign, suggest that it may be time to do so?!

Many thanks for all you have done so far.

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