© The Metropolitan Museum of Art


Name of Object:

The Elephant Clock, folio from a Book of the Knowledge of Ingenious Mechanical Devices by al-Jazari

Location:

New York, United States of America

Holding Museum:

The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Date:

Dated Hegira 715 / AD 1315

Type of object:

Codex

Museum Inventory Number:

57.51.23

Material(s) / Technique(s):

Ink, opaque watercolour, and gold on paper

Dimensions:

H: 30cm, W: 19.7cm; Mat: H: 48.9cm, W: 36.2cm; Frame: H: 51.4cm, W: 38.7cm

Period / Dynasty:

Mamluk

Provenance:

Syria

Description:

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.

How Object was obtained:

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)

Selected bibliography:

Ackerman, Phyllis, Guide to the Exhibition of Persian Art, New York. The Iranian Institute, New York: The Iranian Institute, 1940: no. Gallery VII; case 72G, 190.
Atil, Esin, Art of the Arab World, Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution, 1975.
Atil, Esin, Renaissance of Islam: Art of the Mamluks, Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1981: 255–57.
Bernus-Taylor, Marthe, L'Etrange et le Merveilleux en Terres d'Islam. Musée du Louvre 23 avril–23 juillet 2001, Paris: Musée du Louvre, 2001.
Campbell, Thomas P. (ed), The Metropolitan Museum of Art Guide, New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2012: 133, ill. (colour).
Dimand, Maurice S., "New Accessions of Islamic Art", Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, 16 (April 1958): 227–335, ill. 229 (b/w).
Ekhtiar, Maryam, Canby, Shelia R., Haidar, Navina and Soucek, Priscilla P. (eds), Masterpieces from the Department of Islamic Art in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2011: 6, 143–45, no. 92, ill. 144 (colour).
Roxburgh, David J. (ed), Turks. A Journey of a Thousand Years, 600–1600, London, New York: Royal Academy of Arts, 2005.
Swietochowski, Marie and Ettinghausen, Richard, "Islamic Painting", Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, New Series, 36/2 (Autumn 1978): 4–5, ill. 5 (b/w).
Welch, Stuart Cary, The Islamic World. Vol. 11, New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1987: 50–51, ill. fig. 35 (colour).

Additional Copyright Information:

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Bequest of Cora Timken Burnett, 1956

Citation of this web page:

 "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

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