PROPERTY FROM THE METZGER COLLECTION
Today only seven bird cage pieces, either attributed to, or signed Courvoisier & Compe. are known. Of this select group only two are signed. Although none of the pieces are identical, each shares characteristics that help attribute them to this maker. Production of their cages spans a fifteen year period between 1820-1835.
Several of the shared features comprise the cage shape and design, including the grilles which are composed of delicately pierced and engraved scrollwork. Furthermore, a particular specialty of Courvoisier is the use of a fusee chain to drive the bird motion, unlike their contemporaries who used silk thread, such Jaquet Droz.
The cost of making these pieces apparently prevented Courvoisier & Compe. from commercial success which would likely account for the small number of cages produced. There is little available literature regarding the firm's production of bird cages.
Courvoisier & Compe. registered their mark in La Chaux-de-Fonds, in 1811. The firm consisted of Louis Courvoisier, Philippe Ducommun and Philibert Humbert Droz. The firm's roots go back much further and the Louis Courvoisier family is known as one of the oldest in the horological industry working in La-Chaux-de-Fonds. Originally founded by Josue Robert et fils in 1770, his son-in-law Louis Courvoisier joined in 1787. For a further history of this illustrious family of makers, see Pritchard, K., Swiss Timepiece Makers, pp C81-C93.
Dr. Metzger, who purchased the present lot in 1997, became intrigued by the maker, the lack of existing research as well the rarity of surviving Courvoisier cages. As a result Dr. Metzger collaborated with the noted singing bird automata specialist and author Sharon Kerman Bailly to research Courvoisier's singing bird automata. The research was published in a series of articles in Mechanical Music between the fall of 2010 and the summer of 2011. In his articles, Dr. Metzger writes that he had discovered six examples. Dr. Metzger adds that in his opinion the differing pieces were produced to serve as test models for various export markets. Dr. Metzger further writes "the clocks were well received but for reasons unknown, were never standardized nor produced in quantity as were those of other bird automata makers."
For examples of their bird cage automata either signed or attributed to Courvoisier & Compe. of the aforementioned six, see Chapuis, A. and Droz, E., Automata, pp. 214-215, fig 260, which was formerly in the Collection Ikle, Saint Gallen, one in the Collection of the Topkapi Palace Museum, Istanbul, fig. 261, two others in Bailly, S. and Bailly, C., Flights of Fancy, pp. 131, 197-198,The Reuge Collection, and another from the Estate of Laurance S. Rockefeller, Sotheby's, New York, 11-12 October 2005, now in a private collection.
Recently a seventh candidate has appeared on the market, see Antiquorum, 8 November 2014, Geneva, lot 573.
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