Mechanical Galleon called "The Nef of Charles Quint"
German emperors welcomed and supported a talented group of savants, mathematicians, and astronomers whose discoveries led to the fabrication of prototypes destined for their collections of scientifica. In the margins of this work, the taste for mechanical savants developed; the city of Augsburg became the specialist thanks to the combined talents of its clockmakers and metal craftsmen.
The nave at the National Renaissance Museum is one of the most elaborate table top mechanical galleons that has come to us. It has three masts, is armed with cannons, one of which is hidden in the dragon-shaped figurehead. Its vast brass hull is carved with ornaments and, under the waterline, with marine monsters emerging from the waves. On the bridge, Emperor Charles Quint sits on a throne under a canopy, three heralds parade before him followed by the cortege of eight prince-electors recognisable by their ermine hats; ten trumpets, a drum and a timpani form line; the sailors stationed on the topmast and on the bridge watch the fanfare. The ship’s hull conceals no fewer than seven movements that control the dial at the foot of the main mast, setting off the bells each hour and quarter hour and setting the arms of the sailors on the mast into motion. The musical mechanisms activate the trumpet and timpani players, bringing about the rotation of the platform of electors, the salutations of each one before the emperor and the emperor’s arm movement.
One of the mysteries of the nave is that its artist is unknown and its origin is unknown. Its invention is credited to clockmaker Hans Schlottheim (1544/1547-1626), who worked for the Dukes of Bavaria and stayed at the imperial court of Prague in 1586-1587, then at the court of Saxony in 1589-1593. Schlottheim’s “artistic struggles” once figured in the collections of Rudolf II. This nave, which celebrates the naval and political power of Emperor Charles Quint, was perhaps one of them.