Self-moving machines stood for more than technical progress. Practitioners of the "new science" embraced clockwork metaphors for society, the self, and the universe. They linked astronomical clocks to notions of a divinely ordered cosmos that was reflected in human hierarchies. Clocks also served as allegories of rulership from the Renaissance to the Enlightenment. A disciplined society ran with the regularity of a clock, and the devices had been associated with wisdom, temperance, and prudence—virtues necessary for the ruler—since the fifteenth century. Given these symbolic resonances, it is no wonder that princes commissioned elaborate clocks for their Kunstkammer collections.
Metropolitan Museum of Art