Friday, July 20, 2012

Friday Video: Marie-Antoinette's Automaton

Friday, July 20, 2012

Isabella/Susan reporting:

Loretta and I are fascinated by historical automata – those elaborate wonders of clockwork mechanics from the 18th and 19th centuries. (Long-time readers of this blog will recall the Silver Swan, still swimming after more than 200 hundred years, and the twin Golden Elephants with the spinning rubies, as well as this description from La Belle Assemblee.) Automata represented the highest levels of ingenuity, craftsmanship, and imagination, and are as amazing today in the digital age as they must have been to their earlier audiences. They were favorites of royalty, extravagant toys for the king, queen, or emperor who truly did have everything.

This elegant lady – known as La Joueuse de tympanon (The Dulcimer Player) – is a stunningly beautiful example. Made in Germany by clockmaker Peter Kintzing and cabinetmaker David Roentgen, this automaton was presented to Queen Marie-Antoinette in 1785. The queen was enchanted, bought the piece at once, and had it placed in the Academy of Science.

I know the little dulcimer-player is only painted clockwork, but when she turns her head with that little side-long glance, I can't keep from thinking of everything she's seen in her long, long life. . . .

10 comments:

Susan Bailey said...

Oh, your video reminds me of a music box museum in Wiscasset, Maine called the Musical Wonder House. We vacationed in nearby Booth Bay Harbor a couple of times and gave up dinners so we could buy some nice boxes. That place was magical, you'd love it! It's got a large collection of mechanical wonders like the one on this post. Here's the website: http://www.musicalwonderhouse.com/

Joanna said...

I really enjoyed the video. I love the silver swan & have seen it several times as I live in the North of England. I am also fond of Tipu's Tiger in the V&A. My husband loves the Knight on Horseback Wells Cathedral clock.

Maria said...

Wonderful post, and what a beautiful piece of craftsmanship! I was also intersted to read Susan's comment, since I'm in New England and would love to go to the Musical Wonderhouse.

Elizabeth Boyce said...

Just wonderful! What exquisite skill it must have taken to craft such a piece. Thank you so much for sharing these amazing Georgian automata.

Donna Hatch, Historical Romance Author said...

How utterly charming! What an absolute delight!

Isobel Carr said...

Have you read The Turk? Great history of the legendary card-playing automaton. I want to put it in a book soooooo bad, LOL!

KWillow said...

This is a bit OT, but I wonder if anyone knows of a blog, or site (other than wikipedia) with information on Louis XV? Such an interesting man in a very interesting time, but not much info on the web (or I'm looking in the wrong places). What information I have on him makes me think he suffered from severe depression, or something.

KWillow said...

Ah- I thought I'd left a comment on the automaton. Very cool, and when the figurine turnes her head she really does seem to be looking around her. Do you know what the tune is?

Anonymous said...

I agree. This is completely haunting and that little sidelong glance gave me chills!

The Gossamer Tearoom said...

How wonderful and beautiful! I am new to your blog and am finding it completely fascinating! Will become one of your followers today!

Betty

There was an error in this gadget
 
Two Nerdy History Girls. Design by Pocket