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Otto van Meurs, Long-Case Musical Clock (c. 1750-1775)

For Artwork in Focus we explore individual artworks, critiquing their style and discussing their socio-political context. Today we look at Long-Case Musical Clock (c. 1750-1775) by Otto van Meurs.

About the Work

Title : Long-Case Musical Clock 
Artist : Otto van Meurs
Year : c. 1750-1775
Medium : Oak with burl walnut veneer, mahogany inlay, walnut moldings, gilt brass mount; silvered, gilt and painted brass dial
Dimensions : 280.7 x 61 x 33 cm (110 1/2 x 24 x 13 in.)
Location : Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Long-Case Musical Clock 

According to the digital catalogue of the Harvard Art Museums :

“Its elaborately ornamented dial keeps time and indicates the days of the week, the month, the phase of the moon, the lunar date, and the tides…The true marvel of this clock is its music. To mark the hour, a set of ten carillon bells powered by an internal gear train sounds one of eight popular tunes.”

Otto van Meurs was a celebrated clockmaker in Amsterdam. Between the 18th and 19th centuries, trans Atlantic trade and import and export of raw materials and goods was common. This clock alludes to the exchange boom of that era. The piece is partly made from wood that was imported from outside Amsterdam.

Further, like many other artists of his time, van Meurs made references to history and mythology in his piece. The clock bears the liking of father time who holds an hour-glass. Alongside him are a few angels with trumpets.

Other Details

Otto van Meurs’s Long-Case Musical Clock is housed in the Harvard Art Museums in Room 2240, European and American Art, 17th–19th century. It is part of the museum’s collection of the The Arts in the Eighteenth–Century Atlantic World.


To learn more about iconic artworks and their socio-political context, visit Artwork in Focus.

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