We live in a time-poor, real-time, internet time world, in which things need our immediate response. So I often find myself making excuses as to why I can’t take a bit of time out to go to cultural events; and this winter, Malta has lot going on of interest at its various arts’ venues.
It’s easy also to just pick and choose to go to those events that immediately tally with our own interests. However, it’s worthwhile, once in a while, to see something completely different. I remember several years back going to Fondazzjoni Patrimonju Malti’s (Maltese Heritage Foundation) magnificent exhibitions on Maltese silverware and furniture. I was wowed by the experiences, even though beforehand I’d thought the subject matters more suited to my parents’ tastes.
So, my ears pricked up when I heard that Palazzo Falson (historic house museum, Mdina) in conjunction with Patrimonju is holding this winter a series of lectures on historical and art historical subjects. Aptly, the one this week, entitled ‘500 years of the watch’ is all about man’s inventiveness in measuring time.
Coincidentally, a couple of weeks ago, I read with fascination on the BBC website about a 450-year-old painting that’s believed to show the oldest known image of a watch. The Science Museum is investigating the portrait, thought to be of Cosimo I de Medici, Duke of Florence, holding a golden timepiece. I am sure this painting will come up in the talk as the speaker’s specialism is 16th and 17th century timepieces.
Palazzo Falson has its own rare watch in its collection of timepieces which is one of the most valuable pieces in the Gollcher collection. It was made in Paris in 1791 by Robert Robin (1742-1799); King Louis XVI’s favourite clockmaker. It is distinctive for its ten-hour dial, which reflects French Revolutionary Time, which was based on the decimal principle.
The Lecture & tickets
The speaker is published author and horology expert David Thompson. He trained as a practical clock and watchmaker in the 1970s. David has worked in the horological section at the British Museum for the past 30 years, and been Curator of Horology there since 1995. The lecture is at the Phoenicia Hotel, Valletta, at 18.30, on Wednesday 11 November. Tickets are free, but on a first-come, first-served basis. Contact the Palazzo for further details and to book.
Photo: Courtesy Palazzo Falson (17th century watch signed Isaac Hasius, Haerlem from the Palazzo’s collection).