The Elephant Clock, folio from a Book of the Knowledge of Ingenious Mechanical Devices by al-Jazari
New York, United States of America
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Dated Hegira 715 / AD 1315
Ink, opaque watercolour, and gold on paper
H: 30cm, W: 19.7cm; Mat: H: 48.9cm, W: 36.2cm; Frame: H: 51.4cm, W: 38.7cm
This folio comes from a treatise on fantastic devices invented by the author Isma‘il al-Jazari. His elephant clock was especially intricate: every half hour, the bird on the dome whistled, the man below dropped a ball into the dragon’s mouth, and the driver hit the elephant with his goad. This automaton is reminiscent of the elaborate clocks found on medieval town halls in Europe, which made the passage of time more entertaining through the performance of the moving figures. The folio is a rare survival from Syria, where few such manuscripts from this date are known.
Bequest of Cora Timken Burnett, 1956
Calligrapher: Farrukh ibn `Abd al-Latif
Author: Badi' al-Zaman ibn al-Razzaz al-Jazari, 1136–1206
Former owner: Cora Timken Burnett, Alpine, NJ (by 1932–d. 1956; bequeathed to MMA)
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The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Bequest of Cora Timken Burnett, 1956
"The Elephant Clock, folio from a Book of the Knowledge of Ingenious Mechanical Devices by al-Jazari" in Explore Islamic Art Collections , Museum With No Frontiers, 2019. http://www.museumwnf.org/thematicgallery/thg_galleries/database_item.php?itemId=objects;EPM;us;Mus23;28;en&id=paintings
MWNF Working Number: US3 28