Musical Instruments, Timepieces and Barometers

The SPSG collection preserves about 140 clocks and clock fragments, as well as 20 historical musical instruments. Some 70 other objects are considered war losses or are now in other collections. The surviving works of art originate primarily from the 18th and 19th centuries.

The cultivation of music at the Hohenzollern court first flourished under the Prussian queen Sophia Charlotte (1668–1705). Of the fifteen extant keyboard instruments, two very significant harpsichords built by the Berlin harpsichord and harp maker Michael Mietke and painted by Gérard Dagly at Charlottenburg Palace belonged to her. The two fortepianos were constructed by Gottfried Silbermann (Sanssouci Palace, New Palace) during the lifetime of Frederick II of Prussia (1712–1786). A fortepiano (New Palace) built by London-based Burkardt Schudi bears his signature and the date 1766 (another, formerly existing instrument is a war loss). The two flutes still in the inventory are attributed to the composer and flautist Johann Joachim Quantz, who was also Frederick the Great’s flute teacher. Additional keyboard instruments and a harp stem from the possessions of Queen Luise (1776–1810) and Queen Augusta (1811–1890) and Empress Victoria (1840–1901).

Showpiece clocks were some of the most valuable furnishings in the palaces. Initially admired as technical masterpieces in the Berlin Kunstkammer (Art Chamber), they soon served as luxury decorations in the noblest of rooms. The oldest object in the clock collection is an alarm clock with a lighter mechanism (c. 1700) created by Pierre Fromery, now on display in Oranienburg Palace.

The musical clocks commissioned or purchased by Frederick II, with their works playing harp, bell, or flute melodies, are mechanically and art historically significant. They were built by clock and cabinetmakers recruited to Brandenburg-Prussia. Subsequently, a prosperous, manufacturing-style production of clocks developed in Berlin during the last three decades of the 18th century, actively supported by the Prussian king. Clock movements from renowned clockmakers such as Kleemeyer, Ravené, Fischer, Huguenin, Bauer and Möllinger were installed in cases made either domestically or from France or Switzerland. Three clocks originate from the Neuwieder workshop of the Roentgen family; two of them still contain the original movements by Kintzing.

Typical Parisian pendulum clocks in ornate cases of fire-gilt bronze or Boulle cabinetry were also purchased as décor for the palaces (Sanssouci Palace), including at least two important examples from the collection of Madame de Pompadour, with carillons by Stollewerck and cases by Latz (Marble Palace). The collection contains only a small number of pocket watches.

The oldest of the three barometers (dated 1698, Caputh Palace) has an interesting history, because it was decorated for Elector Frederick III with the motto of the English Order of the Garter.


Dr. Henriette Graf (Musical Instruments)
Dr. Silke Kiesant (Timepieces/Barometers)


SPSG | Department Palaces and Collections
Postfach 60 14 62
14414  Potsdam, Germany
Fax: +49 (0) 331.96 94-104

Collection catalogue of the Collection of Musical Instruments, Timepieces and Barometers

in preparation:

Bestandskatalog Uhren