Monday, September 12, 2011

Period Clockwork Androids

I don't have much to report yet on the status of my ACC project, so I thought I'd share this crazy thing that I'm surprised I hadn't seen before.

The Blackbird Archive shared the rumors that this monk automaton, which is a very rare and very early example of European clock technology has a very interesting past:
"Tradition attributes his manufacture to one Juanelo Turriano, mechanician to Emperor Charles V. The story is told that the emperor's son King Philip II, praying at the bedside of a dying son of his own, promised a miracle for a miracle, if his child be spared. And when the child did indeed recover, Philip kept his bargain by having Turriano construct a miniature penitent homunculus."
The little clockwork monk c. 1560-1562 now resides in the Smithsonian (although no longer on display), and you can view him in action here:


Elizabeth King's fascinating Clockwork Prayer article delves into the history of the monk, the story about Emperor Charles V, the attribution of the automaton, and the historians involved, and unearths interesting things about the past and the validity of the story itself. (Go read it. It's long but well worth it.)

Whether Juanelo Turriano aka Gianello Torriano was actually the monk's maker or not (which seems to still be somewhat speculative as there are no recorded monk automatons in a royal inventory), he was known to be a brilliant clock maker and engineer in Charles V's employ. According to King,
"Today we know of the existence, around the world, of two other monk-like automata, and four lady musicians, all sharing the same basic chassis design and body mechanism, and all dated to the second half of the sixteenth century."
While I'm certainly not the person to do it, I think it would be amazing if someone took this concept and turned it in to an Arts and Sciences project in the SCA.

For those of you interested in post-SCA things, like you amazing 18th Century costumers out there, here's a gem for you: an android made for Marie Antoinette:


Creepy or awesome?