'THE TIGHTROPE DANCER' SWISS | A VERY RARE AND FINE GOLD, ENAMEL AND PEARL-SET MUSICAL MANDOLIN WITH AUTOMATON SCENE OF A TIGHTROPE WALKER IN ASSOCIATED DESOUTTER BOX CIRCA 1810
Estimate: 100,000 - 150,000 GBP
'THE TIGHTROPE DANCER'
A VERY RARE AND FINE GOLD, ENAMEL AND PEARL-SET MUSICAL MANDOLIN WITH AUTOMATON SCENE OF A TIGHTROPE WALKER IN ASSOCIATED DESOUTTER BOX
gilded full plate movement, pin barrel for the music, the automaton driven by cams and levers, gold case, the mandolin's sound board with translucent red guilloché enamel and gold foliate highlights, pearl surround to the decoratively pierced and engraved centre, black and white enamel key board, red guilloché enamel head, gold strings, the back with alternating tapered panels of red guilloché enamel and champlevé enamels of black and blue, the centre with black enamel heightened with a gold vine branch, opening to reveal a polychrome enamel painted lakeside scene with a castle in the background, the vari-colour gold tightrope dancer holding his balancing pole and dancing on a rope secured between the pediments of two vari-colour gold urns, aperture for winding, the whole suspended from chains, with a later Desoutter fitted box
length 66mm, width 26mm
The case is in lovely condition with no losses to the enamel. The engraving is crisp, the pearls are all intact and the 'strings' are straight and in alignment. The chain is also in good order with no stretching.
The mechanism winds easily with the key and the the automaton figure moves to the music when activated.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. All dimensions in catalogue descriptions are approximate. Condition reports may not specify mechanical replacements or imperfections to the movement, case, dial, pendulum, separate base(s) or dome. Watches in water-resistant cases have been opened to examine movements but no warranties are made that the watches are currently water-resistant. Please note that we do not guarantee the authenticity of any individual component parts, such as wheels, hands, crowns, crystals, screws, bracelets and leather bands, since subsequent repairs and restoration work may have resulted in the replacement of original parts. 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. In particular, please note it is the purchaser's responsibility to comply with any applicable import and export matters, particularly in relation to lots incorporating materials from endangered species.NOTWITHSTANDING THIS REPORT OR ANY DISCUSSIONS CONCERNING A LOT, ALL LOTS ARE OFFERED AND SOLD AS IS" IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE CONDITIONS OF BUSINESS PRINTED IN THE SALE CATALOGUE."
Sir David Salomons Collection
Antiquorum Geneva, 2 April 2000, lot 405
Alfred Chapuis & Edouard Gélis, Le Monde des Automates, 1928, vol.II, p.52, fig.324
Mandolin-form musical automata are rare and examples that are known usually depict two or more figures. The present mandolin, formerly in the collection of Sir David Salomons, is particularly notable for the prominence of its tightrope dancer who, whilst alone, dominates the automaton scene.
Sir David Salomons assembled one of the world’s most important watch collections, a large portion of which is now at the L. A. Mayer Museum in Jerusalem. Among the many watches that Sir David owned was the famous grande complication watch that Breguet made for Marie Antoinette.
For two further musical mandolin automata, see: Sotheby's New York, 8 June 2016, lot 88 and A. Chapuis, E. Droz, Automata, Éditions du Griffon, 1958, col. plate V.