A Mechanical Bestiary: Automaton Clocks from the Renaissance


Words by Alexis Kugel


This exhibition, Galerie Kugel’s tenth, continues the tradition of seeking out little-known but fascinating fields in the art world. Renaissance automaton clocks have never been the subject of scientific study, authors of horological reference works devoting at best merely a chapter to them.

These automaton clocks date from 1580 to 1630 and were for the most part created in Augsburg, the main German artistic centre of the time. These wonderful objects combine the arts of sculpture and horology. Rivalling in fantasy and ingenuity, they fascinated the European courts. Today, they can be found in museums holding great princely collections in Vienna, Dresden, Munich. Automaton clocks were also used as diplomatic presents.

The thirty-one automaton clocks presented in this exhibition and book are the largest group ever displayed. While studying them we have made surprising discoveries. For example, the troubling similarities between some of the most extraordinary anonymous clocks displayed here: the Elephant (cat. 3), the large Pacing Lion and his Tamer (cat. 7), the large Seated Lion (cat. 9), and the Chariot of Bacchus (cat. 11), which strongly argue for their having been produced in the same workshop. Among all the clocks published in this book, only one comes from Nuremberg (cat. 21). The chronological presentation that we chose also led us to rethink the conventional dating of certain pieces.

The title “Mechanical Bestiary” is somewhat restrictive, for among the clocks presented here, a quarter represent human figures without animals, and certain pieces possess no mechanical movements. Yet the thirty-one pieces assembled here clearly form a homogeneous and coherent whole. All were created for the same reason: to amuse and delight the collectors of their time.





Delivery and Returns


All orders for US, EU and UK are delivered duty paid. We are pleased to offer complimentary standard shipping on qualifying orders (excluding furniture):

US orders over $100 | EU orders over €100 | UK orders over £150 
Express orders are delivered in 1-4 business days. Ground orders are delivered in 3-7 business days. Delivery service is offered Monday-Friday. 


We want you to be delighted with your Cabana purchase and if for any reason you are not completely satisfied, we are happy to accept a return for refund on only qualified items. All costs relating to postage for returns are the buyer’s responsibility. To confirm if your item qualifies for return, please review our Return Policy:

Return must be initiated within 14 days from your delivery date.

All products must include the original brand tags, box, and/or dust bag.

Lifestyle items must be unworn, unwashed, undamaged.

Item is not final sale.


Please notify us by email at enquiries@cabanamagazine.com including your order number and request to return or refund within 14 days of receiving your order. You will then have a further 14 days to return the damaged items.  



Once your return is received, inspected and approved for refund, a credit will automatically be applied to your original method of payment, within 14 working days.


All items from our Annual Flash Sale are considered final sale. No returns, refunds, or exchanges will be accepted for these items.

Join the Cabana family