Friday, February 16, 2018

A Marvelous Elephant Automaton, c1772

Friday, February 16, 2018

Susan reporting,

Everyone by now knows of the ongoing love affair that Loretta and I have for automata, those amazingly crafted and amazingly beautiful mechanized toys for their very wealthy. Somehow, I'd never come across this one before, and it's a stunner.

According to the information provided by Waddesdon Manor, the present owner of this automaton, this chased bronzed and bejeweled elephant was created in London around 1768-1772 by Hubert Martinet, described as a "businessman-entrepreneur" who likely oversaw a workshop of highly skilled French craftsmen. Many such automata were intended as gifts for Indian officials and rulers as part of the complicated trading protocol of the French and English East India Companies. For whatever reason, however, this elephant - glittering with gilt and paste jewels - was never sold for that purpose. Instead it was widely exhibited in London, Paris, and the Netherlands, passing through several owners. It was finally purchased by Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild sometime before 1889, and added to his collection of treasures at Waddesdon.

Musical automaton, signed Hubert Martinet, 1768-1772, Waddesdon Manor.

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Donna Hatch said...

That IS marvelous!

Annette N said...

That is one of the loveliest things. I keep marveling at the skill it took to create such a jewel of an item. Thank you for sharing.

Cynthia Lambert said...

My goodness. I've long been a fan of automata, and this one really takes the cake. A lot going on there. I've never seen one with so many actions. Those paste embellishments really add a lot to the bling factor, but the many metals are beautiful too. Quite an accomplishment.

Time Traveling in Costume said...

I could watch that for hours, the details are amazing! It makes my own antique music boxes look bland.

Pippa Shirley said...

I'm Head of Collections at Waddesdon and I'm delighted that you have found our wonderful elephant automaton, one of the greatest stars of the collection. You may also be interested to know that it has its own Twitter account (@WMElephant) and is part of a vibrant community of museum mascots of all shapes and sizes

Pippa Shirley said...

I'm delighted that you have met our wonderful elephant automaton, one of the real stars of the Waddesdon collection. You may be interested to know that it has its own Twitter feed (@WMElephant)and is part of a whole community of wonderful museum mascots of all shapes and sizes.

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