Diana on a centaur, Augsburg 1602-6

Diana on a centaur, Augsburg 1602-6

Diana on a Centaur, table automaton, Augsburg, 1602-6.
Creator: Hans Jakob I. Bachmann (Memmingen 1574 - 1651 Augsburg) - GND. Material: Silver, partially gilded; goldplated bottom plate, deep cut enamel, pearls, garnet, black-stained wood; Mechanism: iron. Dimensions: H. 39.5 cm, L. 32.5 cm (max), W. 18.3 cm. Source: Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien, Kunstkammer Inv. Nr. 1166. Licence: ©KHM-Museumsverband (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

This, an outstanding example of the Augsburg goldsmiths’ art in the period around 1600, combines the function of a clock with that of a table automaton devised for a drinking game. A complex mechanism in the pedestal and the abdomen of the Centaur, fashioned by an unknown watchmaker, propels the group over the table and the heads of the rider and one of her hunting dogs turn, the other dogs bears its teeth, the Centaur's rolls his eyes and eventually unleashes his arrow. The guest in whose direction the arrow flew had to raise and empty his cup. Among the most popular motifs for drinking games at the time was Diana, goddess of the hunt, riding a stag; and it by this analogy that the huntress on the centaur is identified as Diana (Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien).

Elector Christian II of Saxony, another passionate collector of technological marvels, bought a very similar automaton during a stay in Prague in 1610, presumably after seeing Rudolf II's original.
Diana and Stag Automaton, Augsburg, c. 1610-20

Creator: Marked by Joachim Fries (1579–1620). Dimensions: H. 33 cm; base: 24.3 x 10.2 cm. Materials: Cast and chased silver, partially gilded and painted with translucent lacquers. Source: Museum of Fine Art, Boston, Accession number 2004.568

Diana, goddess of the hunt, sits astride a magnificent golden stag and holds the leashes of two hunting dogs. The heads of both the stag and the largest hunting dog come off, and each can be filled with wine. Propelled by an internal wind-up motor, the automaton would zig and zag across a banquet table.  If she came to rest in front of a gentleman, he lifted the stag off the base, removed its head, and drained it dry. If it stopped in front of a lady, she did the same with the dog. The work arrived at the MFA with the mechanism corroded and defunct. Museum curators and conservators have worked with a German watchmaker Rolf Lang to create a modern replica of its internal mechanism. (Museum of Fine Art, Boston). Automata of this kind -- with Diana sitting on a stag -- were far more common: around thirty survive to this day.
Provenance: Originally owned by Prince Heinrich the Younger of Reuss, called Posthumus (b. 1572 - d. 1635), Gera, Germany.