Is this the oldest image of a watch?

Is this the oldest image of a watch?

Curators at the Science Museum in London have just made an exciting discovery – particularly for those who are interested in the history of measuring time.

A painting that was acquired by the museum some 33 years ago has recently been brought out of storage, and a seal containing the Medici family’s coat of arms on the back of the canvas sparked renewed interest.

The painting is thought to be of Cosimo I de Medici, Duke of Florence, by renaissance master Maso da San Friano from around 1560. The man in this portrait looks strikingly similar to another verified portrait of the Duke that dates to 1574.

Interestingly for horologists, the duke is holding a golden timepiece. According to museum curator Rob Skitmore, “As Cosimo was a great patron of science and technology, it is entirely likely he would have owned a watch of this kind which he displays here with pride.”

The first watches appeared in German around 1500. Looking at the details and features of the watch in this painting, Rob Skitmore believes it to have been made in southern Germany, and the painting “may well be the oldest to show a true watch“.

You can see the painting in the ‘Measuring Time’ gallery at the Science Museum, London, which traces the history of timekeeping, and contains one of the biggest collections of clocks in Britain.

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