Lot 83
  • 83

THE CHERRY PICKERS

Estimate
400,000 - 600,000 USD
Sold
490,000 USD
bidding is closed

Description

  • 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
    CIRCA 1800
  • Gold enamel and pearl
• the central lid enameled with scene of a young boy and girl picking cherries, flanked by panels painted with flowers in marble vases, the scenes form a pearl-set arcade • the left cover opening to reveal a rectangular enameled panel with time dial below an oval vignette of a boy mounted on an ox • the conforming movement with verge and fusee • the right lid revealing the four color gold and enamel automaton scene driven by pinned disc musical movement, comprising a woman playing a hurdy-gurdy, a seated conjurer waving his wand at a table set with a game of ball and cups, while a tumbler performs somersaults, the chased foreground scene with a hound, lute and music, the enamel background well painted with a maid watching from an open window • the base with “The Elopement,” an elegant couple stealing away towards a waiting carriage • the front with an enameled music trophy and the back with a bouquet, sides with translucent lozenge enamel work, each cover stamped crowned M. 

Provenance

Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Matthew P. McCullough
Prominent American Family until present

Exhibited

New York, A La Vieille Russie, Antique Automatons, 1950, cat. no. 59

Literature

Catalogue of the exhibition, Antique Automatons, A La Vieille Russie,  1950, cat. no. 59, pp. 25, 35; fig. 11

Catalogue Note

The crowned M Geneva maker’s mark on this piece has not so far been identified. Though not recorded frequently, it occasionally appears on fine quality gold and enamel snuff boxes and automata. The mark also appears on another three compartment automaton box, sold at Sotheby’s Geneva, 13 November 1986, lot 298, illustrated in Alfred Chapuis & Edouard Gélis, Le Monde des Automates. Paris, 1928, vol. II, pp. 53-54, and on a singing bird box with movement signed Jt Droz & Léschot à Genève, Sotheby’s Paris, 15 April 2010, lot 61, and another sold Sotheby's New York, 11, June 2015, lot 106. The same mark is also found on lot 85 of this sale.

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. 

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