Horizontal sundial with the coat of arms of the Grand Duke of Alba

(inv. 2015/31/1)

 

Reloj de sol

Ulrich Schniep (active 1545-1588)
1548
Brass, steel, glass
Munich, Germany

 

This is the first sundial signed by Ulrich Schniep, one of the most renowned German scientific instrument makers, known until now for a set of astronomical compendiums and pocket sundials dated between 1553 and 1588. His clientele included 16th century European nobles and kings, including Charles V and, as this piece has demonstrated, undocumented until its appearance on the art market, Fernando Álvarez de Toledo y Pimentel (1507-1582), 3rd Duke de Alba, whose coat of arms is etched on the inside of the lid.

The Grand Duke of Alba, having commanded the imperial tercios fighting against the Protestant Schmalkaldic League for two years, could have brought this sundial, designed for use exclusively in Spanish latitudes, back with him on his return to Spain in 1548. The fame achieved by Schniep is demonstrated by the fact that in 1551 the Emperor Charles V granted him the right to use his own coat of arms, with the epithet Asterinamos und Kundtpassmacher (Astronomer and Compass Maker), a motto which ennobled him while remembering his craftsman’s status.

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