Collecting stories. Behind the clock mechanisms, two stories are linked to Milan: the education of Gian Giacomo Poldi Pezzoli and the commitment of the Pisa family
Titian depicts Eleonora Gonzaga Della Rovere in a painting from 1538, today at the Uffizi. Next to the Duchess of Urbino, as well as a little dog, is a clock. Clocks were solely for royalty and aristocracy and only produced in a few places in Italy and Germany, in Augsburg or Nuremberg. The one owned by Eleonora Gonzaga is a cabinet clock, a table clock that looks like a tiny temple with columns, a dome and the dial on one of the sides. A gilded brass cabinet clock dating back to 1575, made in southern Germany is on display at the Poldi Pezzoli Museum in Milan.
Gian Giacomo Poldi Pezzoli, collector and founder of the museum named after him, owned a series of twenty-five objects comprising watches, pendulum wall clocks and automata, including the Carro di Diana, a triumphal-chariot clock on which the wheels go round, the two panthers rise up and down and their heads turn, as do Diana’s eyes and the monkey. In 1973, following a donation of mechanical clocks and scientific instruments by Bruno Falck, the Clock Room was set up, with examples from the Rinascimento, in gilded brass, German and English, Baroque, in rock crystal, French and German, and pendants in gold, enamel and semi-precious stones. Ten display cabinets tell the history of horology from the sixteenth century to date.
Enameled exhibits from the seventeenth century include Jacques Goullons clock, made in Paris in about 1660, its case featuring miniature paintings by Robert Vauquer with scenes from the Battle of Constantine against Maxentius by Giulio Romano. An example of late eighteenth-century automatic perpétuelle from 1785 by Abraham Louis Breguet. After the room was opened, other donations were added to the collection—more than two hundred pieces collected by the architect Piero Portaluppi, including sun clocks and sundials. Two hundred watches have recently been purchased, dating back to the mid-twentieth century and owned by Luigi Delle Piane from Genoa.
The Poldi Pezzoli museum last year linked up with another institution with a double connection to the city of Milan, Pisa Orologeria. In the thirties, Divino Pisa, the second of thirteen siblings and a timepiece technician, founded the first watch-making school in Italy. A little later, in 1940, Osvaldo Pisa, opened a workshop-store in Via Verri offering repairs of watches and pendulum clocks. This business reached its peak of activity after the war, under the management of his brother Ugo. This is where Divino invented the Terrestrial Magnetism Clock in 1957, today on show at the Science and Technology Museum. The upper middle class in Milan and an international clientele that included Maria Callas and Joan Crawford would come to Via Verri to purchase Rolex, Cartier, Piaget, Jaeger Le-Coultre and Vacheron Costantin watches, emerging brands chosen by Ugo and at that time practically unknown.
‘Le signore delle lancette’ (The ladies of the clock hands) was the name given to the Pisa sisters, Ugo’s daughters, who together with Osvaldo’s nephew, Fabio Bertini, have made sure the story of Pisa Orologeria continues. Opposite the workshop in Via Verri, they opened Pisa Minuti in the eighties, launching the limited edition of the first Pisa own-brand watch. In 2008, this was followed by the Rolex boutique in Via Monte Napoleone and the Patek Philippe boutique. Chiara Pisa, third-generation General Director of the jewelry shop, created and supported an initiative that told the story of the Poldi Pozzoli collection of clocks and watches, at Art deserves more space, with Time for watches, a collection tracing its technological evolution and aesthetic history.