Lot 6
  • 6

A GOLD, ENAMEL AND PEARL SINGING BIRD BOX WITH WATCH AND MUSICAL MOVEMENTS, THE BIRD MOVEMENT FRÈRES ROCHAT, THE CASE RÉMOND, LAMY, MERCIER & CO., GENEVA, CIRCA 1813 | A gold, enamel and pearl singing bird box with watch and musical movements, the bird movement Frères Rochat, the case Rémond, Lamy, Mercier & Co., Geneva, circa 1813

80,000 - 120,000 GBP
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  • 9,5 cm., 3 3/4 in.. wide
of rounded rectangular form, the case enamelled in translucent blue over trellis-patterned engine-turning, the top, painted enamel lid and two watch dials on the front (one hour and minutes, one seconds) with pearl-set borders, the oval lid painted with a mother and child, after an engraving, one end with a key compartment, the oval lid revealing an engraved field with a hatch for the large feathered bird which trills and dances, the case with maker's mark and PC3 standard mark, the bird movement with maker's mark FR in an oval, the interior with three repairer's signatures, with replacement key


The rims of the interior are inscribed with adjuster/repairer’s signatures: Reparé à / W.H. Rick 1940 / Golay quai aux fleurs .... Bernard rue St Martin ... 50 ... 30 Golay (without a first name) is recorded at this Paris address between 1815 and 1817. He is described as ‘Horloger-mécanicien genevois. Repasse et habille les pièces compliquées. Fait des concerts mécaniques pour les pendules, les tabatières, des oiseaux mécaniques et des tableaux vivants’ (Tardy, Dictionnaire des Horlogers Français, Paris, 1971, p. 264).


The oval enamel lid has been lacquered presumably to conceal some restoration, very small chips to the blue enamel on the sides and in two places around the dial on the right, a few scratches on the base, otherwise good condition; the bird movement, the musical movement and the watch movements are currently working but Sotheby's does not guarantee the continued functioning
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

It is extremely unusual to find a singing bird box which also includes a musical movement and a watch movement with two dials. Another example, with the same subject on the lid, was sold at Christie's New York, 21 October 2011, lot 10. The bird movement of that box was also struck with the maker's mark of Frères Rochat and the apparently original mainspring was signed J.L.B. Marchand and dated January 1813. It is very probable that the present example was made around the same time. The movements
The watch and musical controls are concealed behind the front lid. On the left is the enamel watch dial with gold hands indicating minutes and hours. To the right is another enamel dial indicating seconds. The panel also allows access to wind the musical movement, to control speed of the musical performance, to set the time, to wind the watch and to wind the singing bird mechanism. The gold stud to the left of the lid triggers the music.

The singing bird mechanism is driven by fusee, has circular bellows and is controlled by a stack of eight cams. The watch consists of a typical Swiss style cylinder movement with stopwork to the going barrel. The musical movement uses a pinned barrel plucking two stacks of nine teeth each.

The enamel
The subject is taken from an engraving, of which an example survives in the British Library, lettered below the image: Engraved from an Original by Robt. Laurie. / London, Printed for R. Sayer & J. Bennett N0. 53 Fleet Street, as the Act directs 20 Decr 1776. The probably Dutch artist who painted the original picture from which it is taken is not known. Laurie (c. 1755-1836) was a respected author of mezzotints who eventually took over Sayer's publishing business. The subject is said possibly to represent Hagar and Ishmael's banishment from Abraham's house but it seems unlikely since Ishmael was supposed to have been old enough to tease his younger half-brother Isaac thus causing Sarah, Abraham’s wife, to demand the expulsion.

The makers
The horloger David Rochat (1746-1812) of Le Brassus in the vallée du Joux worked at the end of the 18th century with his three sons Jacques François Elisée (1771-1836), David Frédéric Henri (1774-1848) and Henri Samuel (1777-1854), supplying the firm of Jaquet-Droz & Leschot with singing bird parts and also spending some time at Frédéric Leschot’s workshop in Geneva. The brothers then set up an independent business in Geneva and subsequently with other members of the extended family to produce singing bird movements of the highest quality. As with Leschot, their casemaker of choice was Jean-George Rémond (Hanau 1752- Hanau 1830) who during his long career in Geneva registered his last firm, Rémond, Lamy, Mercier & Co., in 1811. For further information about Rémond, see Haydn Williams ed., Enamels of the World - The Khalili Collections, London, 2009, pp. 295-301.