“Diana and the Stag”, automaton sculptural figure - ROM2012_13015_28


“Diana and the Stag”, automaton sculptural figure

Maker: Matthias Walbaum (1554-1632, active in Augsburg 1579–1632)
Medium:Silver: raised, cast, chased, repoussé, partially gilded and jewelled, with internal metal mechanism
Geography: Germany (Holy Roman Empire), Bavaria, Augsburg
Date: c. 1600-1605
34 x 26.4 x 10.6 cm
Object number: 997.158.152.1
Credit Line: From the Collection of Viscount and Viscountess Lee of Fareham, given in trust by the Massey Foundation to the Royal Ontario Museum
On view
Gallery Location:Samuel European Galleries
DescriptionThis sculptural work, representing Diana Mounted on a Stag, is both a table centrepiece and a courtly banqueting and drinking amusement. It is brought o life by turning the clock-like mechanism in concealed in its base. The hollow figure of Diana, filled with spirits, would move along the dining table and stop in front of a guest, who would thereupon lift the stag with its base, remove the head, and take a drink. It is a tour-de force of craftsmanship combining the goldsmith’s art and clockmaker’s sophisticated technology. This example is a masterpiece of the Augsburg goldsmith Matthias Walbaum, who is credited with the creation of this model. He made several early versions of these works for courtly entertainments about 1600. Later versions from around 1610 were made by other Augsburg goldsmiths Jakob I. Miller and Joachim Fries. Iconographic references: Diana is the goddess of the hunt and is alluded to by the small figures on the base, the mastiff and the hound. Dogs were among her favorite animals. The stag probably alludes to the myth of Acteon the hunter who, after gazing on the figure of Diana while bathing, was transformed into a stag. Diana is also the protectress of wild beasts who ruled over marshes and mountains, alluded to by the depiction of the salamanders, the frog, a beetle and the hare. The bow and arrows allude to Dina’s twin brother, Apollo, the prince of archery. The zodiacal figures allude to Diana, as goddess of the moon, whose powers transcended those of the celestial bodies. The figures of Diana and the stag are references to the hunt, an activity which was a prerogative of the aristocratic circles for which such a sophisticated artifact would have been made and the equally lavish court festivities in which it was contextually used.
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