Exhibit in detail: Table clock with quarter hour chime, calendar and automaton

On the day of the winter solstice, our traditional column "Exhibit in Details" features Table clock with quarter hour chime, calendar and automaton, created in the workshop of Jean-Victor Proutat (21.11.1821-31.05.1898) in Arnay-le-Duc, France.

The plaque on the plinth bears an engraved inscription in French featuring an extract from the magazine "Revue Chronométrique", dated May 20, 1906, giving information on the author and his creation: "Proutat Victor 1898".

The clock in the form of a Gothic cathedral is mounted on the gilded plinth and closed by transparent case with faceted glass walls in the thin gilded binding. The case front and rear sides are in the form of doors. The case façade with chamfered corners is decorated with elements characteristic of the Gothic style — lancet arches, rosettes with four-leaves and two turrets with pointed roofs and lancet windows. Along with gilded elements, red copper details were widely used. The background for the openwork arches are blue blued steel panels. The façade covers only the front side of the mechanism, the other three sides are open to view. The centrepiece of the façade is a circular enamel dial with Roman numerals for hours, minute divisions, Arabic symbols for five-minute intervals and three central hands — hour, minute and seconds. Inside the ring, below the twelve o'clock mark, is a steel sector with an openwork inscription - the master's name - on a blue blued background. Below the hour dial is a circular enamel calendar dial with the central pointer decorated with the image of a solar disc and the French names of the months. Miniature images of the sun indicate the dates of the spring and autumn equinoxes and the winter and summer solstice. Two small circular dials with hands indicating the day of the week and the date are inside the calendar ring. The calendar is framed by a blued steel ring with engraved images of the zodiac signs Circular blued sector of the lunar calendar with Arabic numerals is above the hour dial. A movable gilt disc with the moon against a starry sky inside the sector shows the moon phases. Theatre of automata is fixed on the flat top side. A bracket with large bell stands in the stage center. Cylindrical gilded tent from which a figure of the god Chronos appears every hour with a scythe in one hand and a hammer in the other is the left of it. Chronos raises his hammer and strikes the bell the required number of times. To the left of the tent is a rotunda with two bells, one above the other. Next to the bells are figures of angels with hammers in their hands. On the right side is a model of a cathedral with two portals facing the centre of the stage and covered by metal curtain with the images of the French flag and the Last Supper. During the action, the curtain slides open to reveal a procession of apostle figures from one portal to another.
The clock movement is pendulum, with Amant escapement, three spring motors and an attached calendar movement. A key is in the set.

On the day of the winter solstice, in the late December, when the Sun reaches its southern most point on the celestial sphere, a phenomenon known as the winter solstice occurs. This phenomenon, important for astronomy and culture, has a great impact on nature and human lifestyle. In the outgoing year, the winter solstice will occur on December 22 at 06:28 Moscow time. It comes when one of the Earth's poles reaches its maximum tilt away from the Sun. It is at this moment the height of the Sun will be minimal in the Northern Hemisphere, that is, the Sun will be at the lowest point relative to the Earth's horizon for the whole year. Astronomical winter is coming. In the hemisphere where the winter solstice occurs, the shortest daylight hours and the longest night of the year are observed. In this case, for several days before and after the event, the position of the luminary in the sky at noon will practically not change — this is what gave the name to the natural phenomenon. Scientists call the winter solstice the beginning of astronomical winter, summer solstice - the beginning of astronomical summer. Inhabitants of the Northern Hemisphere observe this phenomenon in December and July, in the Southern Hemisphere vice versa. Astronomical winter lasts until the onset of the vernal equinox — in 2024 it falls on March 20. At this point, the duration of daylight and night is the same, and after the vernal equinox, the daylight begins to become longer than the night.

Our ancestors believed that the solstice day carries special magic — in particular, on the darkest day of the year evil spirits are released. In the cultures of many peoples, including the Slavs, there was a belief that special rituals can protect from dark forces. According to ancient beliefs, the winter solstice was a period when evil spirits sought to replenish their energy, invading the world of people. In response to this, people hung spruce branches in their homes, convinced that the scent of pine needles could scare away unwelcome guests.

On the day of the winter solstice it is customary to make wishes. Different nations have traditions of celebrating the winter holiday:

  • Ancient Romans honoured Saturn, the god of agriculture, from 17 to 23 December. People stopped all their work and schoolchildren were sent on holiday.

  • The ancient Germans celebrated this day with great fanfare. It was believed that it was on the day of the winter solstice that the King of the Oak was reborn, which warmed the frozen ground and gave life to the seeds in the soil. People lit bonfires in the fields as a sign of respect.

  • In Scotland, there was a tradition of launching a burning wheel to symbolise the solstice. A barrel was coated with tar, set on fire and then driven down a hill.

  • The Chinese believed that the winter solstice marked the beginning of a new cycle. That's why everyone, from commoners to emperors, had a rest on this day, visited each other and set large festive tables.

  • The Indians called the day of the winter solstice Sankranti. The festival was celebrated in both Sikh and Hindu communities, where at night, on the eve of the festival, bonfires were lit, the flames of which resembled the rays of the Sun