Hans Schlottheim
Mechanical Galleon, c. 1585 AD
Silver, iron, enamel, brass
42 (height) x 24 (width) x 2 (depth) cm
Augsburg, Germany


This automaton clock in the form of a ship or nef was made by the master clockmaker Hans Schlottheim of Augsburg in about 1585. It represents a galleon—the type of ship used by the Spanish to attack British naval forces during the Great Armada of 1588. These great ships were the most complex machines of their day and this ornate miniature reproduction would have been an elite status symbol to impress guests of a banquet at court.
The entertainment began with music, drumming, and a procession of the seven electors in front of the Holy Roman Emperor Rudolf II, who is shown seated below a canopy on the quarter deck. The ship would then travel across the banqueting table and as a grand finale the front canon would fire, igniting a fast burning fuse that would fire all the other guns to finish its performance in a wonder of smoke and noise.


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