Lot 81
  • 81


1,500,000 - 2,500,000 USD
1,210,000 USD
bidding is closed


• the rectangular box finely chased on the cover in vari-color gold with a bouquet of flowers in octagonal reserve surrounded by scrolling foliage, all on sablé ground, the sides and base with engine-turned reserves bordered by chased formal foliage • the cover opening to reveal a chased four-color gold automaton scene, depicting the Magician wearing a tall conical hat, with moving wand, in his right hand and a book of spells which he consults in his left, his wand points towards a window hidden by a moving branch in a gnarled tree, on the right a seated youth plays a lyre, the ground scattered with a book and skull and cross bones, while a coiled serpent sits on an inscribed scroll on a rock, the background finely enameled with a waterfall beside a classical arcaded building • the right hand side of the box with two drawers, the lower containing six double-sided gold and enamel tablets of questions which are selected to include in the smaller drawer above • gilt brass movement with backplate bearing signature Chas. Oudin, 52 Palais Royal, Paris



Music and Automaton

A single barrel drives the music and automaton, pushing a slide on the left side this sets in motion the automaton and music
the music: pin barrel and comb with two tunes selected via a slide to the case back;
the automaton: composed of four wheels with cams engaging five articulated arms to produce the motion to the figures, with three arms engaging a separate wheel to convey the movement to the magician in sync, the branch attached through the plate to a toothed wheel engaged by a ratcheted arm, all sandwiched between two thin brass plates;
the answer wheel: activated by the tablets carrying the questions, the tablets are pierced with holes at the ends, with differing but precise lengths, five of the six tablets carry on both sides a question to which corresponds a hole which opens at the base and left of the drawer, a plunger enters the hole, the plunger is attached to a chain pulley turning a gear to rotate the plate to the intended position, held in place with a spring to a toothed wheel to the underside of the answer wheel

 see diagrams on pages 84-85

A drawer containing tablets is pulled out from the right, each tablet bearing a question which is then inserted in the drawer above. The upper drawer is spring-activated, released by a pin-sized pusher at the upper right corner.  Once the question is inserted, the magician points to a small window concealed by a leafy branch, and reveals the answer to the question asked. 

The hinged base opening to reveal a  snuff compartment and then stamped with maker’s mark CI (Chenevard Jouvet & Cie) in oval, Geneva mark used after 1815, 18k, also with French eagle head control mark on body, covers and drawers.

The questions and answers are as follows:

1.Le confident de jeune femme?- un miroir

2.Qui nous console?- le temps

3.Qu ’aime t’on chez autrui?- la génerosité

4.Qui  t’a créé?- CH Oudin

5.Ce qui dure trop peut?- l’amour –

6.L’ami commun?-l’argent

7.La chose incompréhensible?- la vie

8.Quelle est la plus belle vertu?- la charité

9..La chose rare?- un ami

10.Que désire fille de 16 ans? – un mari

In Le Monde Des Automates, Vol. II, pp. 167-168 a full description of the automaton is given, along with drawings of its mechanisms, translated loosely as,

"When one pushes the small drawer the reply to the question it poses moves into position in the window hidden by the branch of the tree.  To read the answer one pushes a slide on the left side which also releases the music.  At the back of the case one pushes a lever to select one of the two tunes."

The mechanism of the music, starts the motion of the automata, the young man plays his lyre, letting his agile fingers move from one chord to the other within varying movements like a skillful musician.  The Magician waves his wand, brings the book of destiny to his eyes and consults it by inclining his head. After having lowered his arm he raises his eyes towards the tree to invoke the spirits and to nod his pensive head several times,  Then after receiving the inspiration he once again consults his book and starts again his incantations, then straightening himself he points his wand to the window where the branch of the magic tree lowers itself to reveal the reply of the oracle.

Once this has been read the leafy branches return slowly into place. The scene is ended and the musician ceases his play."