Saturday, October 13, 2007

Rare Hand-Cranked Barrel Piano Automaton

Standing at over three feet high, this beautiful and unusual automaton was made and signed by a piano manufacturer George Hicks of London.

The piece has many nice features including an enclosed barrel piano, a double-leaf folding lid and a box comprised of boxwood, rosewood, and ebony.

I was drawn to the fine woodwork, the high backed proscenium which acts as a sound aperture, brass S-form crank, and the delightful animated scene. The presence of a Royal Coat of Arms on the back panel may mean this was a special commission of some sort.

There are four moving figures derived from traditional Black Forest automata: King Gambrinus drinking, an ape in jester costume playing guitar, a Roman soldier, and an Eastern arms collector. All four figures are animated by the barrel which operates a total of ten levers.

This piece will be going to auction on October 28th, 2007. Visit Skinner Auctioneers' website for more information on the upcoming Science and Technology auction that will include this and many, many other automata and mechanical music items.

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