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Cosmic machines

The significant progress in clockwork technology in the 16th century made it possible to manufacture devices that emulated the complex movements of the celestial bodies. In the early 16th century Lorenzo della Volpaia completed the construction of a spectacular planetary clock which, for the first time, allowed the viewer to take in the movements of all the planets, of the Sun and the Moon, in a single glance. Skilled masters continued to develop this highly specialised area of craftsmanship over the next few decades, producing clocks that provided perfect mechanical simulations of the universe in movement. These devices, that diminished in size and grew in sophistication in terms of specifications, performance, and decoration, became much-admired ornaments in the homes of the rich and powerful.