The legend of the Astronomical Clock in the Old Town of Prague seems to have come straight from the Brothers Grimm.
The dark tale is set in the fifteenth century, when the clock is said to have been created by the great clockmaker Mikuláš of Kadaň.
Such was the reputation of his craftsmanship that Mikuláš was approached by many a foreign nation, each wishing to have its own town square topped with a marvelous astronomical clock.
Mikuláš refused to show the plans of his masterpiece to anyone, but word got back to the Prague Councilors.
Overcome with fear that Mikuláš might build a bigger, better, and more beautiful clock for another nation, the Councilors had the brilliant clockmaker blinded, ensuring that their clock would never be topped.
Driven mad, the clockmaker took the ultimate revenge, throwing himself into his extraordinary work of art, gumming up the clock’s gears and ending his own life in one stroke.
In doing so, he cursed the clock. All who tried to fix it would either go insane, or die.
While this is only a legend, it stands as a testament to the extraordinary nature of Prague’s Astronomical Clock.
The clock has been modified, destroyed, and repaired many times since its creation in 1380.
It is perhaps the most well-known astronomical clock in the world, with four moving automatons (including a skeleton ringing his death knell for each hour), and rotating statues of the 12 apostles.
It displays Babylonian time, Old Bohemian time, German time, and Sidereal (star) time. It also shows the moon’s phases and the sun’s journey through the constellations of the zodiac.
The calendar dial, just below the clock, shows the day of the month, the day of the week, feast days and allegorical pictures of the current month and sign of the zodiac.
In the gloaming … Amber Valletta on the Tiber. Photograph: Glen Luchford
by Nell Frizzell
We had to shut the river Tiber in Rome for this picture. It’s expensive to shut down a whole river, but this was for the Prada 1997 autumn/winter campaign, so we had the budget for it.
You can’t see them, but there are about 10 people in the water, setting fire to bales of hay covered in kerosene to try and make it look misty. We had to shoot it in the last 10 minutes of daylight, so that the colours would be just right.
I wanted it to be more than dusk – you could call it the gloaming.We’d painted the boat the right colour. Everyone was lined up, ready to go, about four hours before we were due to shoot. But right at the last minute, the stylist decided to change the dress to a red one. That proved too vibrant.
Then the boat started to sink and one of the guys throwing the bales of hay in the river forgot to let go and disappeared into the water after it.
I’d been planning it for three months but in the last five minutes of daylight, the entire scene descended into utter chaos.
Mr Bertelli, the boss of Prada, was standing there on the riverbank shouting at everyone. When he asked me if I’d got the shot I said, “No!” and stormed off in a huff.
We went back the next day. We closed the river again and worked on everything we’d done wrong to get it right the second time around. When the film was developed it was exactly what I had wanted to achieve.