A rare 18th-century Austrian, presumably Viennese, painting clock; the automaton with a caravan passing in a landscape. We see a traveling Ottoman caravan that has moored at a watering place at the edge of a town, where they encounter Western women with water jugs. In the foreground, one of the women offers water to the central Ottoman figure. Behind the well we see camels resting and drinking water.
The centre of the painted well features a door that can be opened. Behind this a silver-plated and engraved dial indicates the hours and minutes. The timepiece has a going mechanism with verge escapement. With every tick of the clock, the machine is driven so that one can see the caravan moving forward a step. The running time of the timepiece is about a week.
The depiction is based on the Old Testament story of Rebekah and Eliezer at the Well (Genesis 24). Abraham sends his servant with ten camels to his native region to find a good wife for his son Isaac. The right bride would offer water not only to the thirsty traveller but to his camels, as well. At a well he meets Rebekah. She offers him drinking water, but also draws water for all his camels. This convinces Eliezer that she is the chosen one to be Isaac’s wife.
The painting clock was crafted at a time when there was an increased interest in everything that had to do with the Near East.
During the Seventeenth Century, Turks were still viewed as barbarians. A peace agreement came into effect when the Ottomans were defeated at the Battle of Vienna in 1683. When Turkish power had been decimated, other aspects of the exoticism of the Ottoman Empire gained general interest. Diplomatic relations were established between European countries and the Ottoman Empire and more and more influences from the East were woven into European culture.
Fantasies about the Eastern empire played a major role in the arts. A place of luxury, wealth and eroticism was imagined. This exotic character was even accentuated in Mozart's operas a century later, for instance. And the translation of the folk tales of One Thousand and One Nights also triggered the imagination, inspiring the style of painting and architecture. Turkish influences were also seen in fashion: the ‘Turkomania’ or ‘Turquerie’ was in vogue throughout Europe, especially during the second half of the eighteenth century.