THE CHERRY PICKERS
- AN EXCEPTIONAL THREE COMPARTMENT GOLD ENAMEL AND PEARL MUSICAL SNUFF BOX WITH CONCEALED AUTOMATON AND TIMEPIECE MADE FOR THE CHINESE MARKET
ATTRIBUTED TO PIGUET & CAPT
THE ENAMEL PAINTING ATTRIBUTED TO JEAN-LOUIS RICHTER
- Gold enamel and pearl
Prominent American Family until present
The current box shares several similarities with the box sold in Geneva in 1986: overall design and decoration of the case, automaton scene, as well as a timepiece with one dial.
Another three compartment box was sold Sotheby's Geneva, May 2014, lot 334. The catalog note mentioned that the combination of music, automaton and timepiece places this type in the rarest class of boxes made in Geneva.
Jean-Louis Richter (1766-1841) was known for his landscape subjects ranging from specific topographical views to more romantic imaginary views of Alpine peaks. His landscapes are often inhabited by miniaturized figures. The current box with its rosy cheeked children is yet another of Richter's characteristic scenes. For another automaton timepiece with the cherry pickers theme also attributed to Jean-Louis Richter, see Sotheby's New York, June 2015, lot 108.
Isaac-Daniel Piguet (1775-1841) was born in Le Chenit (Vaud) and is said to have moved to Geneva before 1800. He entered into partnership with his brother-in-law Henri Capt, another mécanicien, on 10 February 1802. The firm was active for a short period 1802 to 1811. Piguet & Capt however were the first to make objects to combine automata and music for use in luxury objects, such as snuff boxes, jewelry and watches.
Matthew McCullough and his wife Louise were collectors of automata in the beginning of the 20th century. Matthew met Louise Ross when he began to work for Ross Lumber Company in Chicago in 1904, and they married later that year. McCullough had a successful career, including serving as president of both Ross Lumber Company, and several other firms. Louise was the true collector of the two, starting in 1918, and discovering automata in 1922. Over the next 30 years, the couple amassed an exemplary collection of automata, buying high quality and rare pieces, such as the present lot. They kept their collection behind a secret panel in their study, but firmly believed these pieces were meant to be played with and enjoyed, and thus were happy to show them to visitors and family. A La Vieille Russie included this piece, as well as the rest of the McCullough collection, in their Antique Automatons exhibition in New York City in 1950, and were mentioned in the forward along with the exhibition's main contributor, Dr. Maurice Sandoz.