time to explore with esplora
A walk through this charming
Palazzo Falson houses forty-five extraordinary collections which include paintings, silver, furniture, jewellery, Oriental rugs and armoury, as well as a remarkable library containing over 4,500 books, and some highly valuable manuscripts
Palazzo Falson is an exquisite historic house museum with medieval architecture and an extraordinary collection in the heart of Mdina. The palazzo belonged to Olof Frederick Gollcher, a descendent of a Swedish-Maltese family who made a fortune in Malta in shipping. Olof was an artist, a philanthropist and art lover who collected objets d’art, mostly from travels throughout his life. Olof’s house in Mdina is filled with antique furniture, silver pieces, oriental carpets, paintings, ship models, armoury, rare books, watches, jewellery and many other valuable artefacts.
An exceptional artefact that stands out from the rest of the collections is an 18th century decimal dial watch made by a distinguished watchmaker, Robert Robin (1741-1799) in Paris in about 1797. Robin was an engineer with a creative mind and a lot of ambition. He belonged to a small circle of great clockmakers and by the end of the 18th century he greatly improved instruments for measuring time. He enjoyed the patronage of King Louis XVI and his wife Marie-Antoinette, at the time producing 12 hour watches and clocks and even inventing highly complex astronomical clocks. Robin proudly signed some of his watches as ‘Robin au Louvre’ or ‘Robin aux Galeries du Louvre’.
After the overthrow of the French monarchy, Robin’s career was not affected; on the contrary, he continued to prosper under the new Revolutionary government, honoured with the appointment of Horolger du Directoire (1796). A new Republican Calendar was introduced in 1795, whereby the traditional timekeeping was changed to a decimal time system. The day was divided into 10 hours, with each hour subdivided into 100 decimal minutes and each minute again divided into 100 decimal seconds, that is, 100,000 seconds per day. The idea of the decimal period was derived from a proposal that a certain John le Rond D’Alembert had put forward 35 years before the Revolution.
Robin had invented an unusual mechanical feature to produced fine and accurate timekeeping of 10 hour watches. However, decimal watches were only produced for a short time as this timekeeping system was never widely adopted and in 1804, Napoleon I, abolished it and re-introduced the Gregorian calendar. This resulted in a few surviving examples of the decimal dial watches, one of which is at Palazzo Falson. The rare and distinctive 18th century 10 hour watch is the creation of Robert Robin, marked with serial number 886 and signed Robin à Paris No.2. It is undoubtedly one of the most valuable pieces in the museum.
It is worth visiting Palazzo Falson, not only to see this unique watch but also to experience a walk through the charming Maltese palazzo displaying wonderful works of art collected by Olof Gollcher.
Palazzo Falson Historic House Museum, Villegaignon Street, Mdina is open every day, except Mondays, from 10am to 5pm (last entry 4.00pm). Children under 6 years are not permitted, and children between 6 and 12 year enter free of charge with an accompanying adult.