Art: Clockwork

Appropriately for the Christmas season, a Manhattan gallery was showing some of the most elaborate grownups' toys ever made: automatons produced largely in the 18th Century by Swiss and British craftsmen. There was a gold caterpillar that, when wound, inched along a tabletop in a pretty fair imitation of nature. A gold mouse, ridged with pearls, scurried, stopped, spun and darted about as if in real fright. An emerald-green frog jumped and croaked.

Eighteenth Century automatons were born of the realization that clockwork is a power source that can be used for more than just telling time. Such triumphs of ingenuity as...

Want the full story?

Subscribe Now

Subscribe
Subscribe

Get TIME the way you want it

  • One Week Digital Pass — $4.99
  • Monthly Pay-As-You-Go DIGITAL ACCESS$2.99
  • One Year ALL ACCESSJust $30!   Best Deal!
    Print Magazine + Digital Edition + Subscriber-only Content on TIME.com

Learn more about the benefits of being a TIME subscriber

If you are already a subscriber sign up — registration is free!