Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Unusual Artifacts: Le Gai Violiniste, 1900

Le Gai Violiniste
1900, Paris
The Victoria and Albert Museum

With the dawn of the Twentieth Century, the rich would amuse themselves with playthings such as music boxes and automata. Here we see an example of such an object. This mechanical figure of a man playing a violin contains a clockwork mechanism. It is covered in cloth and features a key on the left side.

While many automata are constructed of papier mache, composition or other materials, this figure features a painted metal head, top hat and hands with metal strips for arms and legs, and black-painted lead feet. In his hand, he holds a metal violin and bow. When wound, he plays the instrument, however, curiously, there is no sound save the click of the mechanism. The automaton retains its original box which has a picture of the violinist on the outside.

Manufactured in Paris around 1900, this is the work of Fernand Martin.

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