• Watch in a silver egg-shaped case

    Dimensions:
    9,3х5,8 cm (body); 3,6х1,7 cm (key 1); 3,8х1,3 cm (key 2)

Watch in a silver egg-shaped case

Russia, second half of the 18th century

This watch was made by the famous self-taught Russian mechanic Ivan Petrovich Kulibin (1735–1818), who, on hearing that Empress Catherine II was planning to come to his native city of Nizhny Novgorod, conceived the idea of creating this unique timepiece for her. In the spring of 1767, during her visit the Empress spent time in Kulibin’s workshop, acquainted herself with his works and, interested by his account of the watch, expressed a desire that the mechanic should bring it to Saint Petersburg personally when it was complete. Kulibin finished the project in March 1769. The watch has chimes and a musical apparatus that plays several tunes, as well as a miniature mechanism that imparts motion to the figures in a tiny built-in theatre. The watch resembles a goose’s egg in shape and contains 427 extremely small parts. On the house the timepiece plays Easter tunes and performs Easter scenes: the doors located in the middle of the egg open revealing a chamber, in the depths of which is “a semblance of the Holy Sepulchre” and a doorway blocked by a stone, with two sentries armed with spears to the sides. After half a minute, the figure of an angel appears in the chamber, the stone rolls aside and the sentries fall to the ground. Another half-minute and two holy women appear. (The figures of the angel and the women were cast from gold and silver.) The tune of the Paschal troparion (“Christ is risen from the dead,/ Trampling down death by [His] death,/ And upon those in the tombs/ Bestowing life!”) is repeated three times. As it finishes the doors shut. The Paschal Troparion is repeated ahead of each hour, from 8 am to 4 pm, while the other hours are marked by a different tune from the Hymn of the Resurrection (“Jesus having risen from the grave, as He foretold, hath given us life eternal, and great mercy.”). Besides that, once in 24 hours, at noon, it plays music that Kulibin composed in honour of the Empress’s arrival in Nizhny Novgorod. That tune lasts four minutes. The watch needs to be wound once a day and sounds the quarters, the half-hour and the hour. This gift made such a powerful impression on the Empress that she invited the gifted craftsman to become head of the mechanical workshops of the Academy of Sciences. Kulibin consented to her proposal.

Title:

Watch in a silver egg-shaped case

Place of creation:

Dimensions:

9,3х5,8 cm (body); 3,6х1,7 cm (key 1); 3,8х1,3 cm (key 2)

Acquisition date:

Entered the Hermitage in 1950; handed over from the Museum of Ethnography of the Peoples of the USSR

Inventory Number:

ЭРО-7318