Thursday, December 20, 2012

Le Buffet Magique (The Magic Cupboard) automaton circa 1910

The antique automaton shown here is titled Le Buffet Magique which translates as "The Magic Cupboard". According to the video, the piece was probably made by Auguste Triboulet for the Vichy firm in Paris around 1910.

The scene features a young boy perched on a hutch -- probably somewhere he's not supposed to be. He opens the door to the cupboard and a fly disappears within. As the boy reaches for the jar of currant jelly (I think), the face of his omnipresent grandmother appears to warn him away. The boy defiantly sticks his tongue out at the old lady. There seems to be an unusual fascination with tongues in many of the old French automata. I haven't figured out why that is yet. Having been thwarted from his attempt at the jelly, the boy is consoled by the sight of a mouse climbing a nearby apple. To my eye the scene is a bit more bizarre than magical. Certainly, it is humorous. Regardless of your particular interpretation, it is an amazing piece with a lot of interesting figures and motions.

This historical automaton is just one of hundreds housed at the Morris Museum, home to the Murtogh D. Guinness collection of automatic musical instruments and automata. The info is at the end of the video. You may also visit the Morris Museum web site for more information.

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