Shown here is an extremely rare musical automaton known as The Kneeling Egyptian Harpist. Made by Gustav Vichy around 1890, few are known to exist. It is estimated to be worth between $30,000 - $45,000. This is one of many exquisite dolls and automata being auctioned by Theriault's on November 19th, 2011.
From the Harpist automaton description:
When wound, she elegantly plucks the harp, her right arm moving laterally to the instrument as her right jointed wrist bends to "pluck" the strings. Then her left arm rises and falls vertically in an arc. Meanwhile her head turns and nods as though gazing at the strings and then at her audience, her breastplate heaves slowly in a breathing motion, and her eyelids open and close.
The sale, to take place in New York at the Waldorf Astoria, features a collection of 19th century antique French dolls and automata. The most notable of automata in the sale come from the collection of Aaron and Candy Spelling. These include automata by such masters as Vichy, Theroude, Lambert, and Roullet et Decamps.
Here's one on my wishlist (for all you kind anonymous benefactors out there) -- a French gilt bronze automaton titled Mandarin Magician by J.F. Houdin.
From the magician automaton description:
A heavy cast bronze Mandarin magician with elaborately-sculpted costume in traditional style and having impressed designs, earrings, moustache, and cap is standing behind a gilt bronze table with star and fringe accents. Music and movements are wound separately, and the music can be elected to play alternate tunes, repeat, or can be played separately without the movements. When wound, the Mandarin nods his head, and in a series of movements lifts both magic domes atop his table or only one; meanwhile the secrets under the domes are alternately revealed: cups, dice, cones and such, or, sometimes, nothing.
Here is a link to more information on the Many Wonderful Things auction to be held Saturday, November 19th, 2011. If you cannot attend, be sure to register for the online auction – visit www.theriaults.com and click on the button for Proxibid – because they will be demonstrating each of the pieces as it is brought to the podium!