Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Is that snake real? Incredible footage of a vintage snake-charmer automaton

My previous post was about "Zulma, La Charmeuse de Serpent" (Zulma, The Snake-Charmer) created by Gaston Decamps around 1907. VERITAS Art Auctioneers in Lisbon, Portugal will be auctioning off this rare automaton today, June 24th 2014 .

Here is video footage of the piece in question. Just incredible!

Contact information for VERITAS Art Auctioneers:
Address: Av. Elias Garcia, 157 A/B  1050-099 Lisboa, Portugal
Phone: +351 21 794 8000
Email: info@veritasleiloes.com
Web:  http://veritasleiloes.com

[ Thanks Falk! ]

Labels: , , , , , , ,

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Zulma, The Snake-Charmer automaton to be sold on June 24th, 2014

Just a few days from now, VERITAS Art Auctioneers in Lisbon, Portugal will be auctioning off a rare and important automaton. Titled "Zulma, La Charmeuse de Serpent" (Zulma, The Snake-Charmer), the piece was made by the famous by Gaston Decamps in 1907.

From the catalog description:
Rare automaton with winding mechanism and four melodies, resin and card face and body with joints hidden by jewels of oriental inspiration in gilt metal and paste On a painted wood base with coin slot and velvet carpet in green and red embroidered in metal yarn. This model shows the snake-charmer in a silk embroidered gown girded by a scarf When in movement the figure dances to the music and the snake’s head moves at the same rhythm.

I've seen one of these in person some years ago at a Skinner auction. It was stunning!

Contact information for VERITAS Art Auctioneers:
Address: Av. Elias Garcia, 157 A/B  1050-099 Lisboa, Portugal
Phone: +351 21 794 8000
Email: info@veritasleiloes.com
Web:  http://veritasleiloes.com

Labels: , , , , , , , ,

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Beautiful and complex multi-dial automaton skeleton clock

Check out this incredible multi-dial clock created by François-Joseph Hartmann (1793-1830), a clockmaker who worked in Paris. The clock features rarely seen automata, two calendars, the age and phases of the moon, the times of sunrise and sunset, the equation of time, world time and the signs of the zodiac! It is believed to be from 1801.

From the La Pendulerie web site:

When the lever is pushed a polished steel whirligig with mirrored glass background, set above a twin-headed fountain with winged leopard heads mounted with twisted steel rods to imitate running water, is simultaneously activated. The shaped rectangular base features a central palmette frieze flanked by ribbon-tied wreaths; it is raised on six turned feet.

The central sprung panel opens when a lever is pulled, revealing the spring-barrel movement for the animations. Mounted on a substantial oak mahogany-veneered baseboard supported on flattened ball feet, the underside set with a facetted sprung steel shaft and cone terminal, activating the automata work by means of a handle that activates a lever and thence the columns, whirligig and fountain. - See more at: http://www.lapendulerie.com/Hartmann-Coteau-Exceptional-Mutli-dial-automaton-skeleton-clock-DesktopDefault.aspx?tabid=6&tabindex=5&objectid=584068&categoryid=14437#sthash.8zrQ1krq.dpuf

Here is where you can read more and see additional photos of this multi-dial automaton skeleton clock.

[ Thanks Felix! ]

Labels: , , , , , ,

Monday, November 04, 2013

Antique bubble-blowing polar bear automaton

Polar bear automaton

The good folks at Douglas Fisher Antique Automata just posted this amazing piece by Roullet & Decamps dating to around 1905. This is one of the best antique automata I've seen in quite a long time!

From the Douglas Fisher web site:

When bubble mixture present in chalice and automaton wound by the key and bayonet start/stop rod actuated, the polar bear turns his head to the left as his right hand holding bubble hoop scoops up mixture from the chalice held in left hand and lifts hoop in front of face, pausing for a moment then suddenly blowing to exude a stream of many bubbles which blow around the room. He then quickly turns his head to the left and opens his mouth to clearly reflect on the fun of the action, scooping more liquid for the next of many bubbles blown in repeating sequence again and again.

The bear has a clever movement within torso which animates the arm, head, and mouth. It also contains a bellows which provides the air needed for the bear to blow the bubbles. As with many automata of this era, the body is made papier-mâché covered in real fur. It figure stands 17 inches high, has glass eyes, and carved wood teeth.

Here is where you can learn more about this antique bubble-blowing polar bear automaton.

Labels: , , , , , , ,

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Automata by L’Arbre à Pain inspired by the automaton designers of old

Check out the work of Anne Pradère and Dominique Jalabert, owners of "Le Petit Musée d'Automates" in Pauillac, France.

More about them from their web site:

The designers’ love for animals had led them to build a fantasy world, creating human-like animals imitating life. They have used the mechanics to give birth to a soul endowing their animal world with charm.

Their works continue the path opened up by the literature with Aristophane’s zoomorphism, the Romance of Renard, Granville, Theile… and inspired by the great designers of automatons who have endeavored to create life since Antiquity.

Each character was entirely made at the workshop, making them unique and authentic creations. They are moulded and painted, the costumes are tailor-made with ancient materials, lace and appliqué. In order to perpetuate the French tradition of automaton designers, the mechanics are based on a system of cams. Each silver-soldered brass component was manufactured at the workshop.

Here is where you can see more automata L’Arbre à Pain.

[ Thanks Henry! ]

Labels: , , , , ,

Friday, May 17, 2013

Video profile of automaton sculptor Jacques Monestier

Check out this wonderful film which profiles automaton sculptor Jacques Monestier. I'm sorry I can't say more about it; my French just isn't that good. Trust me, you will enjoy the film! His demonstration with the mechanical hand is truly amazing.

[ Thanks Thomas! ]

Labels: , , , , , , , , , ,

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Antique wall-mounted automaton by the French maker Tharin

Antique wall-mounted automaton

This wall-mounted automaton by the French maker Tharin is currently for sale on eBay. The automaton figures are hand-painted paper and depict a nineteenth century lady and gentleman at a well.

It's hard to tell from the photo shown here, but the well emits a stream of "water" which is really a rod of glass that has been twisted into a spiral shape. When set it motion, it creates a it creates a convincing effect. The eBay listing has a close up shot of this often-used mechanical illusion.

From the eBay description:

The music box plays two tunes while the automaton picture has 6 moving parts. The ladies head moves up and down, the gentleman's head and hand move, the dog and horses head move up and down to drink water. There is also a special piece in the center, a turning glass cane that makes the simulation of water. All the mechanical parts are intact and original. The music box plays for half a minute.

Mechanism of wall-mounted automaton

I am always amazed at how delicate and spidery the works are for these old wall-mounted paper automata. Somehow that assemblage of tangled wires and thin strings continue to run after 100 (and sometimes 200 or 300) years. The eBay listing has some wonderful shots of the mechanism as seen from the back.

The automaton has an integrated music box which plays two tunes. These are changed by pulling on a dedicated string. The piece measures 15 1/2" x 18 3/4" inches.

Here is where you can see this Antique wall-mounted automaton by the French maker Tharin.

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Friday, February 08, 2013

Clown Illusionist automaton by Phalibois performs bizarre decapitation routine

Back in December I posted about magician Pierre Mayer's new clown automaton. In the post, I explained that the illusion is a venerable one and made reference to a similar piece by Phalibois. Here is the Phalibois automaton in question.

Like Mayer's piece, this automaton depicts a clown doing a famous decapitation illusion. Because it is a much large piece, it incorporates a music box which also served to drive the mechanism. There are also a few other added surprises in store for the viewer. The automaton was made in Paris by either Henri or Jean Phalibois somewhere between 1890 and 1900. The entire things measures 33-1/2" high by 15-3/4" wide by 19-1/8" deep.

This delightful pieces is located at The Morris Museum, part of the Murtogh D. Guinness Collection of Automatic Musical Instruments & Automata housed there.

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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.

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Video of 'The Headless Clown' magic automaton by Pierre Mayer

Image of The Headless Clown automaton

I posted a few days ago about the amazing new automaton by Pierre Mayer. He is known for creating automata that perform a magic trick. This particular piece is a tip of the hat to the famous French maker Phalibois and his headless clown automaton.

As you will see in this new video, the scene starts with clown a holding a fan. The clown slowly raises the fan in front of his face. There is a pause and when the fan is pulled away, the clown's head has disappeared! The top of one of the boxes next to the figure starts to rise, and the clown's head mysteriously emerges from within! The entire sequence then reverses, ending with the clown's head restored to its proper place.

See more magical automata on Pierre Mayer's web site.

Labels: , , , , , , , ,

Thursday, December 06, 2012

The finest bird song of 1890 produced by lovely brass mechanism

Image of brass mechanism

Our friend Michael Start over at The House of Automata created this lovely video of a a singing bird mechanism. During the course of the bird's song, we get a 360 degree view of this ingenious device.

According to his description, the mechanism was made about 120 years ago in Paris. It is most likely the work of Bontems, a distinguished maker of bird automata.

An expert at horology and automata, Start restored the mechanism, though it was rusted and seized when he received. It is very common that the fine leather used for the bellows dries, cracks, and leaks on these singing bird mechanisms. He notes with surprise that the bellows were in good condition.

If you are curious about what the rest of a singing bird mechanism looks like, check out this post featuring a video on How Singing Birds are Made.

[ Thanks Mauricio! ]

Labels: , , , , , , , , , ,

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The Headless Clown - magic automaton by Pierre Mayer

I had the great privilege to be among the very first people to see the new automaton created by Pierre Mayer. Pierre Mayer is known for his wooden automata which perform magical illusions.

The piece is a marvelous interpretation of a classic magic automaton made by the famous maker Phalibois. The scene starts with clown a holding a fan. The clown slowly raises the fan in front of his face. There is a pause and when the fan is pulled away, the clown's head has disappeared! The surprises aren't over yet, however. There is a pair over-sized dice to the left of the clown. The top of one starts to rise, and the clown's head mysteriously emerges from within. The entire sequence then reverses, ending with the clown's head restored to its proper place.

I was told by the artist himself that the clown's colorful costume was inspired by the lavish ones used by Cirque du Soleil in their performances. As with all Pierre Mayer's work, The Headless Clown is beautifully made.

Now in production, The Headless Clown and other magical automata may be found on Pierre Mayer's web site.

Labels: , , , , , ,

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Antique miniature spinning wheel automaton made of bone

This interesting automaton of a woman spinning wool is currently for sale on ebay. When the handle is turned, the spinning wheel spins. The female figure lifts her left arm, pulling the wool, as she turns her head from side to side.

Front view of miniature spinning wheel automaton

The piece measures 1-1/4 inches wide by 2 inches long and a little over 4 inches high. While the seller is not certain of its provenance, a search on the internet revealed similar examples that were described as "French Prisoner of War creations", which were made from scraps of cow and pig bone. The prisoner of war notion certainly adds a lot of interest and backstory if true. The piece is possibly from the 1840s.

I love the small spur gear and the mating lantern pinion. I also love the shape of the handle as well as the pulley that drives the spinning wheel. The material, whatever it is, is interesting and looks like it machines or carves well. A fascinating piece of kinetic folk art.

Check out a bunch of large, detailed photographs as well as the rather hot bidding action on this antique miniature spinning wheel automaton.

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

French automaton of singing taxidermy bird in brass cage

Phalibois is a famous name in the history of automata. Apparently the father and son team made some singing bird automata to compliment their more typical automata which depicted monkeys, tight-rope walkers, and conjurers.

From the eBay description:
Here is a very rare to find "Jean Phalibois" (French made) bird automaton. An amazing work of J. Phalibois (most likely would date it around 1890 or even earlier). This is a very unique larger-size bird cage (brass wire cage on a molded plaster and wood decorative base). It is a rare and nice high-end cage. This bird is authentic/original taxidermy bird with amazing condition. The whole original taxidermy bird was installed on a brass bird body with inside mechanism (A very rare bird! Please, we welcome a bird expert contact us, to give us information about what kind of bird is this.) Real natural feathers (iridescence blue/green wing feathers, iridescence head, chest and neck feathers and some iridescence tail feathers. They change colors depending on the light. Pictures do not do justice to these beautiful feathers. Looks beautiful and very attractive. The bird, flooring, cage, bellows and the Mechanical parts are all original and in excellent condition. Bellows and the clock-work automation work perfectly like new. Overall condition is undamaged and truly excellent, with the slight patina of age. This is a true antique, not a reproduction, and one that is sure to appreciate in value over time.

Here is where you can see many more pictures and two additional videos of this French automaton of singing taxidermy bird in brass cage.

Labels: , , , , , , ,

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Automaton figure on antique French clock points to the hours and minutes

Antique French Bras en L'air Clock Automaton

Here's a really interesting antique French clock dating to around 1890. The automaton figure points to the hour and the minutes.

From the eBay description:

The gilded robed goddess standing atop the marble base has her arms outstretched. The hand of her right arm points to the hour, and the left hand points to the minutes, which are delineated in 5-minute increments. The gilding contrasts most beautifully with the blue enameled backdrop behind the goddess.

The platform escapement movement works perfectly, translating the clockworks through a clever linkage to the two arms, which when they reach their uppermost point fall dramatically to the lower starting position.

Here's where you can see the full listing including many nice photographs of this Antique French Bras en L'air Clock Automaton.

Labels: , , , ,

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Laetitia, Princess of the air by Pierre Mayer

I've been featuring the work of automaton-maker and magician Pierre Mayer on my blog for a while now. His is the creator of many wonderful magic-trick automata including The Orange Tree, Miniature Orange Tree, The Harlequin, Fechner's Levitation on Stool, a tribute to Siegfried and Roy, and many others.

Here is new and mysterious automaton by Pierre Mayer called "Laetitia".

From the artist's web site:

This automaton differs from the previous one: the Fechner’s levitation. It uses a completely different principle, no magnets this time. Laetitia floats in the air when you turn the handle and the arms raise. A mirror at her back shows there is nothing to hide and creates a perfect illusion for this levitation. Also the flames from the candles twirl and move up.

See more magic automaton by Pierre Mayer on his web site.

Labels: , , , , ,

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Amusing automaton by Jean Pierre Galopin


Here is an amusing automaton by Jean Pierre Galopin entitled Lulu la Sportive. The automaton features a mouse in a mousetrap. Fortunately, the mouse wasn't caught!/p>

See more automata by Jean Pierre Galopin on his web site.

Labels: , , ,

Friday, July 01, 2011

Whistling boy automaton made by Phalibois

Here is a video showing the performance of a whistling boy automaton made by the famous Phalibois. This is a large Phalibois whistler -- approximately 3 feet tall with the base. As the boy whistles, he tilts his head from side to side and opens and closes his eyes slightly. He also moves his arm up and down a little.

[ Thanks Kevin! ]

Labels: , , , , ,

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Somewhat mysterious singing bird music box

mysterious singing bird music box

OK...so maybe not everyone has the $5.8 million dollars required to by something like the pair of singing bird pistols attributed to Frères Rochat. That doesn't mean you can't dream of a miniature mechanized singing bird of your own. Here's a beautiful example that can be yours for a fraction of the price. What that is...well...it's probably changed by now, so I'll let you see for yourself.

The ebay description is a little mysterious, but based on the current number of bids and the amount, I would say that there are people out there who know exactly what this is and that is worth something.

Quality automaton Music Box possibly from France or Germany. Gilded finish bronze box, bombe sides, fleur de lis decoration. A slide switch releases an hinged oval panel on the top. Bird stands for the duration of the tune. Found in the original cloth lined storage box along with the key (for winding) that is fitted in the hinged cover. Black exterior. Unsigned.
Music Box is 4"W x 1-1/4"H x 2-1/2"D.

Here's the full listing with many nice photographs of this somewhat mysterious singing bird box.

Labels: , , , , , , ,

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

French-made magican automaton from the 1880s

Here's an antique automaton depicting a magician performing a cups routine. As music plays in the background the figure raises and lowers the metal cups. The objects under disappear and transform into other objects.

Made in Paris around 1880, the figure is made of papier-mâché with clockwork mechanism and music box inside the base. Most remarkably, this gentleman is wearing his original clothes! While the secret of the magician's trick may not be all that secret, it is unquestionably a fine piece with a rich history.

Contact The House of Automata for more details on this automaton.

Labels: , , , , ,

  |   Older Posts >