Within the palace workshop, automata were created and conceived by Jesuit missionaries. According to Catherine Pagani in her discussion on this subject (see 'Europe in Asia: The Impact of Western Art and Technology in China,' Encounters: The Meeting of Asia and Europe, 1500-1800, p. 302) an automaton in the form of a walking lion by Gilles Thebault (1703-66) was made according to basic horological principles. Moreover, a walking automaton in human form was planned - but not ultimately realized - by Sigismondo Mainardi di San Nicola (1713-67).
A small clock in the Palace Museum, Beijing, set within a 'landscape' similar in palette and style to the automaton, and accompanied by two blue birds comparable to one in the present example, attributed to the 19th century, is illustrated in Gugong Zhong Biao, Beijing, 2004, p. 254. A clock enclosing an automaton of waterfalls and sailing ships was sold in our Hong Kong rooms 8th October 2008, lot 2212.
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