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Astronomical clock

Louis XV and science: the most beautiful instruments

Authors: Engineer: Claude-Siméon Passemant (1702-1769); Clockmaker: Louis Dauthiau (1730-1809); Sculptors and bronze artists: Jean-Jacques and Philippe Caffiéri (1725-1772)

Date: Presented to the Royal Academy of Science on 23 August 1749, presented to the king in 1750. Mechanism: 1749; bronze: 1753

Characteristics/Origins: Gilt bronze, enamel, steel, copper and glass. Versailles, musée national des châteaux de Versailles et de Trianon © château de Versailles, Christian Milet

The extraordinary astronomical clock was added to the clock cabinet in January 1754. Engineer Claude-Siméon Passemant designed the timepiece, clockmaker Louis Dauthiau crafted the mechanism and sculptors and bronze artists Jacques and Philippe II Caffiéri made the case. It shows the date, real time, average time, phases of the moon and movements of the planets according to Copernicus. A moving sphere crowns the exceptional rocaille work, which measures over two metres tall. A bronze globe features all the countries engraved with the main cities. It is amidst rocks and waterfalls serving as the universal horizon.

The Academy of Science examined and approved the clock in August 1749 before the Duc de Chaulnes presented it to Louis XV at Choisy on 7 September 1750. The king acquired it that year. It was put in the clock cabinet, attesting to Louis XV's interest in the mechanical arts and clocks; the room actually got its name because of the large astronomical clock dials in the wainscoting showing the sunrises and moonrises every day. The king's scientific interests led him to amplify that daily experience by having the Passemant clock installed in this room.

Video in French

Louis XV & the sciences: the finest instruments

Unlike Louis XIV, protector of the sciences, Louis XV put into practice the lessons in geography, cartography and astronomy learned in his childhood. In the Château de Versailles he set up the scientific laboratories that lasted until the French Revolution...

Artworks of the room

Plan of the rooms

Plan des salles