A group of plump gilded bronze putti seated on clouds and supporting a shield with the coats of arms of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and the Poniatowski family—Ciołek (bull calf)—is the only surviving piece of a rotating clock which decorated the Royal Castle’s Throne Room before World War II. The bronze casing of this monumental clock (h. 107 cm) was made in the studio of Jean-Louis Prieur—a renowned Parisian sculptor, master bronze caster and chiseller—after his own designs, which have been preserved. The work was carried out as part of the Royal Castle’s renovation project which King Stanisław August Poniatowski commissioned to the architect Victor Louis in 1765.
In the centre of the clock’s low base, decorated with rosettes, was a vase ornamented with floral garlands which held the movement equipped with a rotating ring which bore marks indicating hours and minutes. A reclining figure of the beautiful Urania, goddess of Astronomy, leaning against the globe, stretched her hand out towards the vase. On the other side of the vase was a group of putti (still preserved), one of whom is pointing his index finger to draw the viewer’s attention to the coat of arms. The underlying message was clear to the King’s contemporaries: time, symbolized by the clock movement and Urania, is marked by the rule of King Stanisław August.
The clock formed a compositional whole with a semi-circular console table top mounted on massive lion’s paw feet. The clock’s complex movement, the work of Jacques-Joseph Lepaute de Bellefontaine, was mounted later—in 1777—in casing which had been cast earlier and was not yet gilded. In 1786, the clock, which probably originally stood in the King’s Bedchamber, was placed in the New Audience Chamber. The room’s interior was designed by Domenico Merlini, who used architectural elements and other objects that had been made in Paris—like the clock itself—as part of Victor Louis’s unrealized project for the Castle’s renovation.
The fragment of the clock which survived World War II, became an eloquent symbol of the Castle’s fate.