Antique French Singing Bird Automaton
Beginning in the late 1800s and through the first decade of the 20th century, the wealthy upper class were among the first ever to enjoy abundant free time, and among the last to pass that time without television. In France, these blissful years have come to be called "la Belle Époque" - the Beautiful Age. Seemingly carefree hours were spent cultivating pastimes and playing parlor games. Much as our modern monied society acquires the "latest and greatest" amusements, so too, the upper classes around the world collected novelties designed to impress and entertain.
Acquired in Paris, we are thrilled to present a magnificent and extremely rare Antique Singing Bird Automaton that wonderfully captures the spirit of the Belle Époque. With an attention to detail and realism that is a marvel to behold, this musical, automated bird is coin operated and dressed in brilliant turquoise plumage. The bird's articulated head, beak and tail feathers are all controlled by a complex clockwork movement concealed in the cage base that also activates bellows and whistles to create birdsong.
Topped with a gilt metal cage, the richly patinated wood base also features decorative gilt bronze mounts. The bird's perch is adorned with antique velvet leaves and bright red antique glass currant berries. On the front of the base, a celluloid plaque reads "Please Drop One Penny In The Slot", while on the side of the base, a pull-out drawer collects the Victorian Pennies dropped into the slot. On that same side, a key hole allows the internal movement to be wound by a period clock key. Once wound, it is triggered to play by the dropping coin. The bird song is realistic in its tone, along with pauses and variations that add to the bird's magical realism. (Please see below for a video of the bird singing.)
This magnificent French Singing Bird Automaton is made in the style of famed Parisian specialist Blaise Bontems who was the first of a dynasty of automaton manufacturers that would eventually include his son Charles Jules and his grandson Lucien.
Sure to be a magnificent addition to your home, this exceptional treasure will captivate today just as it did during the late 1800s in Belle Époque France.
Please Note: If interested in purchasing, please call the shop. We are unequipped to ship such a unique item. It would need to be collected at the shop by the purchaser to be dealt with by their art handlers if shipping were required.
Strictly one-of-a-kind and subject to prior sale. Circa 1880. In very good antique condition with wear commensurate with its age. Wood base of bird cage measures 10" square at bottom. Gilt Cage measures 8.5" at widest point. Overall height is 22".