The Painted Object

Object 33: The Mystery Clock


What is it? Click for larger image.

What is it? Click for larger image.

Object 33

Steering Wheel

September, 2012

Walter’s Art Museum

Modern Reproduction


This curious object was also found in a painting in the same room. There’s water in the clear tube, and curiously it’s at a different level on one side than the other.

FIVE hints:

  • Spoiler

    There is only one hand on the clock. You’re being fooled by a shadow.

  • Spoiler

    The tubing around the golden sphere is important.

  • Spoiler

    A meta-analysis of posts on College of Curiosity could yield many more clues.

  • Spoiler

    The clock isn’t what makes is special.

  • Spoiler

    It is found in a Chamber of Wonders.



It is a replica of a perpetual motion machine.

Created in 2005 by Englishman Andrew Crisford, it is based of an original design by Cornelis Drebber, 16-17th century Dutch Inventor. This “non-working” model matches contemporary paintings of the objects, though there are conflicting reports of whether the original worked or not.

The laws of physics dictate that the original could not have truly been in perpetual motion, but it is possible that changes in air pressure or temperature could have added energy into the system allowing the clock and moon-phase indicator to function for longer than the winding mechanism would normally allow.

This object can be viewed in the Chamber of Wonders at The Walter’s Art Museum.

Links for more information on the device:

  • Cornelius Drebbel’s Perpetual Motions
  • Video of the Chamber of Wonders with the object in the background
  • Panorama of the Chamber of Wonders showing the object and the painting that contains it
  • Video demonstrating how the tubes could possibly power a clock
  • Photograph of the painting at the Walters with zoom-in feature


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