THE KING FAROUK SHEPHERDESS AUTOMATON
• gilt automaton work of shield form with seven motions comprising: the shepherdess raises and lowers her arm, the two sheep and the dog raise and lower their heads, a water-wheel revolves fed by flowing water represented by rotating glass rods • gold cuvette engraved with a putto playing at a fountain • the automaton scene chased in three color gold with a finely painted polychrome enamel background depicting a Swiss lake scene with a mill, split pearl-set bezels • the reverse fitted with an oval medallion finely painted with a polychrome enamel scene of two rosy-cheeked children, one playing a horn, while the second figure looks on, both vibrantly enameled in tones of red, yellow and magenta • the lower portion of the band fitted with automaton start/stop lever, the band decorated with enamel in tones of red and blue, with key and later presentation box.
King Farouk of Egypt (1936-1952)
Sotheby & Co., The Palace Collections of Egypt, Koubbeh Palace, Cairo March 10th- 17th, 1954, lot 523
Sotheby & Co., The Palace Collections of Egypt, Koubbeh Palace, Cairo March 10th- 17th, 1954, lot 523, p. 91, plate 24 top right
Isaac Daniel Piguet (1775 – 1841) and Henri Capt (1773 – 1837?) were partners from 1802 to 1811 in the firm bearing their name, Piguet & Capt. The duo are considered amongst the most important makers of small automata at the end of the 18th and beginning of the 19th centuries. Of the examples attributed to them, quite possibly the present one is amongst the most impressive, considering its relatively small size combined with the technical feat of including automata of such complexity. Examples of their craftsmanship are exhibited in the world's foremost collections such as the Patek Philippe Museum, Geneva.
The enamel is possibly by Jean-Abraham Lissignol (1749-1819), known as Pére Lissignol to distinguish him from his son Abraham also an enameller in Geneva, was trained by Jean-Marc Roux. As well as painting portrait miniatures, he supplied workshops with plaques for snuff boxes and watch cases. He appears to have specialised in allegorical subjects particularly those including plump cherubs. A box in the Patek Philippe Museum shows such a scene identified as the allegory of The Arts and Nature. In 1806, Père Lissignol wrote eloquently to the Paris authorities (Geneva then being occupied by France) suggesting that the Imperial Court should buy enamelled trinkets to encourage the failing trade in Geneva, just as they had bought Lyons silk to help that market recover (Geneva Archives).
[F.L.] Hess is recorded as an enameller in Geneva circa 1828 with his establishment at Allemands-Dessous 42. Among his works recorded in private collections, the Patek Philippe Museum has a watch made for the Chinese market signed on the enamel 'Hess', (Inv. S-769). Its painted scene 'Maternal Love' is probably inspired by a painting by Elizabeth Vigee Le Brun (1755-1842), duplicated on other watches from the same period, such as the 'Amphora' attributed to Piguet & Capt, from the Sandberg Watch Collection, now exhibited in the Patek Philippe Museum (Inv. S-454).
King Farouk, the last King of Egypt, known for his extravagance and lavish lifestyle, was overthrown on July 3, 1952. He was forced to abdicate, and fled Egypt three days later into exile first to Monaco and then Italy until his death in 1962. Farouk left behind an extensive and Important collection of works of art which the new Egyptian Government seized. Subsequently the government engaged Sotheby's to organise the sale of his collections.
The 1954 "Palace Collections of Egypt" would be a landmark sale and at the time considered the auction of the century. Farouk's collection spanned a wide range of collecting categories, primarily Objects of Vertu, Watches, Automata, Jewellery, Silver, Stamps, Coins, Paperweights and Galle Glass. The Auction lasted over a month between February and March of 1954. In the brochure advertising the sale, it was written "The master craftsmen of all countries and periods are represented in the fabulous collection of small works of art in precious materials." Of the automata it was written, "Switzerland is the home of a whole series of exquisite musical automata."
The present lot was one of two automaton shields offered in the sale. The first, lot 521, was smaller with a see-saw automaton and no figural enamel scene on the back.
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