Friday, February 20, 2015

Unusual Artifacts: A Musical Automaton Hurdy Gurdy, 1875

Musical Automaton
Hurdy Gurdy
The Victoria & Albert Museum

At first glance, this odd item appears to be simply a wooden box adorned with figures of two monkey musicians. However, it’s much, much more than that.

By means of a handle at the back of the organ, a magical animation begins. The handle operates the Papier Mache and fabric monkey figures which were supplied by the Parisian maker Alexandre Theroude to a retailer of musical instruments, Thibouville Lamy. Together, they play eight different tunes. Upon being accepted into the Victoria & Albert Museum, the monkeys were given new clothes as their originals were in a sad state. The new clothes were made using the originals as a pattern and are as close in color and texture as was possible.

This item is illustrated in a Silber and Fleming catalogue which dates between 1876 and 1877. Similar examples were also for sale in upscale specialty shops and elegant department stores. Such a thing was not meant for children, but rather sold as a novelty for adults to enjoy.

No comments: