- A REMARKABLE AND PROBABLY UNIQUE VARI-COLOR GOLD ENAMEL AND PEARL AUTOMATON SNUFF BOX
ATTRIBUTED TO PIGUET & CAPT GENEVA
- gold and enamel
• rectangular case with canted corners, the hinged glazed cover with pearl-set bezel, the scene as follows • the automaton features 12 motions and includes a lady at the right working a classical fountain, from which water is pumped to the fire cart at center, operated by two men, each with two moving arms pumping the central handle to shoot a jet of water toward the flaming roof, the water simulated by spiral glass rods; at the left a soldier stands at attention, a hound, chattels and an overturned table in the foreground • the background richly enameled with the burning building situated in a lakeside village, with figures carrying pails in the foreground, a youth climbing a ladder to rescue a young girl, open windows revealing an automated parade of six figures including a mother with child and others carrying possessions, all below the moving flames, the flame motion realistically conveyed via a rapidly revolving red metal wheel, the automaton played on demand, lever at back to start the motion • the base painted in the manner of Richter, with a classical landscape, a shepherdess and other figures in front of a lake, with ships and town in the distance, on the right a cascade below a temple, translucent ocher sunset sky, the sides with matching landscape and borders of champlevé enamel with urns, birds and foliage, marked on rim with French standard mark for 18k gold in use 1798 -1809, a head of a man with numbers (possibly 63) and two later eagle head control marks, the backplate of the movement is scratched 'reparé par Charles Bruguier Janvier 1847'
The collection of Mr. and Mrs. Matthew P. McCullough
Prominent American Family until present
New York, A La Vieille Russie, Antique Automatons, 1950, no. 66
Roy Mosoriak, The Curious History of Music boxes, Chicago 1943, pp. 90-91, plate 17, two views
Catalogue of the Exhibition Antique Automatons, A La Vieille Russie 1950, Cat. no. 66
This elaborate automaton scene with 12 motions relates to the "Tavern Courtyard Box" sold Swiss Mechanical Marvels, part I, Sotheby's New York, June 2015, lot 110.
For a discussion and illustrations of boxes including multi-figure automaton scenes, including the "Tavern Courtyard Box," see Alfred Chapuis and Edouard Gélis, Le Monde des Automates, 1928, chapter 17, pp. 63-65, figs. 345-347. Two pieces are in the Sir David Salomons Collection at the L.A. Mayer Museum for Islamic Art, Jerusalem.
The Charles Bruguier repair signature on the automaton plate is likely either Charles Abraham Bruguier (1788-1862), or his son of the same name. The Bruguier family was famous Geneva makers of musical and singing bird boxes and were also known to have worked on automaton boxes.
For a note on Piguet & Capt, see lot 83.