Thursday, June 17, 2010

Maillardet's Wonderful Mechanical Exhibition

Thursday, June 17, 2010
Loretta reports:

As usual, looking for something else, I happened upon the pages of Advertisements for June in an 1807 La Belle Assemblée.  I was particularly charmed by this ad for an exhibition of automata—and thrilled to find a video of one of Maillardet’s works on YouTube.

 Again removed to Mr. Wigley's Great Room, Spring-Gardens.

MAILLARDET's WONDERFUL MECHANICAL EXHIBITION, open from Ten o'Clock in the morning till Five in the afternoon, and from Seven till Ten in the evening.

The MUSICAL LADY.*  —This wonderful Automatum, whose combination of excellence renders adequate description impossible, is seated at an organized piano forte, and plays, with the most accurate precision, sixteen airs. Every note proceeds from the pressure of  the fingers on the keys. The feet assist in playing several notes; while the animated and surprising motion of the eyes, aided by the most elegant gesture produce the actual appearance of respiration.

The Animated Rope-Dancer, whose great agility excites general admiration, by making exertions of Herculean strength.

The Juvenile Artist,** the figure of a boy, who, with every action of real life, will execute, in presence of the company, specimens of writing and drawing superior to the first masters.

The British Fortune-Teller,*** or rather Enchanter; for few of the tales concerning these wonder-working sages in their groves of druidical oak, " where magic spells impend from every bough," could go beyond the astonishing realities of this self-acting Automaton, who resolves questions that are proposed to him with the precision of an oracle.

A Beautiful Bird, which, by mechanical powers, darts from a gold box, and warbles its melodious notes with powerful effect, as perfectly to resemble nature; and when it has finished its concluding air, returns back to its nest.

The Siberian Mouse—The inventor flatters himself, that in ingenuity of mechanism, exactness of resemblance, and pleasing effect, this figure will be deemed, at least, equally interesting with any that have been specified.

The Sphinx Oleandra.—The Domesticated Lizard. An accurate representation of a peculiar species of that beautiful Insect, the Aranea.

The Room will be brilliantly illuminated in the evening—Admittance Two Shillings and Six-pence.

Of the merits of this surprising effect of mechanical power, little need be said, having been honoured by the presence of her Majesty and all the Princesses, and being now under the flattering patronageof their Royal Highnesses the Princess of Wales and the Duchess of York.

From La La Belle assemblée or, Bell's Court and Fashionable Magazine, Vol. II.  Publisher J. Bell, 1807

*Video of an 18th C automaton made for Marie Antoinette
**The Maillardet automaton


Shannon said...

Wow, that is SO weird. I mean, you get used to seeing automatons in today's modern world, but the thought of doing something similar with watch-maker ingenuity nearly takes my breath away.

Jane O said...

No wonder Rothgar found them so fascinating.

ILoveVersailles said...

Thank you so much for the link to Marie Antoinette's music box! I didn't know that had survived the Revolution. Beautiful, beautiful.

LaDonna said...

Oh wow, too cool! I love ingeneous little toys like this.

Finegan Antiques said...

How simply wonderful and intriguing! Leave it to you two girls to find such fascinating historical tidbits. Love your site.


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