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Musical automaton (flute clock)

1796 (?), cabinet later, Manufacturer: Primitivus Niemetz



Musical automaton (flute clock)

So-called flute clocks, built on the same principle as the organ, are of a very ambitious design. Small flute registers with very few notes could imitate birdsong. They were called ‘serinettes’ and were used to train songbirds. Larger and correspondingly mechanically more ambitious flute clocks occasionally consisted of several registers. Masters of the Viennese Classical period composed works especially for such devices. However, the major part of the repertoire was made up of arrangements of popular pieces of music. The flute clocks for which Joseph Haydn wrote original compositions are attributed to the clergyman Primitivus Niemetz. From 1780 he occupied the position of librarian to the Esterházys and so came into contact with Joseph Haydn. (rh)

Lit.: Rudolf Hopfner: Masterpieces from the Collection of Historic Musical Instruments. A Short Guide through the Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna, Vol. 1, Vienna 2019.

Location: Neue Burg, Sammlung alter Musikinstrumente Saal 12

Object data

Object Name

Musical automaton (flute clock)


Austria, Vienna or Eisenstadt


1796 (?), cabinet later


Dimensions Cover size is a museum or exhibition-specific information. It does not specify the real dimensions of the musical instrument.

1440 mm x 925 mm x 415 mm

Image rights

Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien, Sammlung alter Musikinstrumente

Inv. No.

Sammlung alter Musikinstrumente, 1038

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